October 28, 2018 Sermon

“Wisdom”                                                                                                                             1 Kings 3:4-28
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
October 28, 2018

Solomon woke up as light streamed into the room, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He didn’t feel at all ready to face the day. Thinking back to the dream he had that night he wondered “was that real?” He’d been having a lot of strange dreams recently, but this one seemed too good to be true. God had come to him and asked “what should I give you?”

I mean, is that how God really works? Asking what to give you?

Solomon asked for wisdom. After all, there was no way he was ready to be king. No way he was ready to govern and judge. And God seemed happy with that request and gave him wisdom.

As he was reflecting over all this, one of his employees came over to tell him he was needed. Two women were arguing over a child. Both had recently given birth to children. One of them had lost a child to death. The other child was alive. Both claimed that the living child was theirs.

The air was thick with emotion: unbearable grief, burning anger, fear and accusations. The women presented their case to the king. He had a decision to make, a heavy decision, a decision that would change the lives of these women and the child forever.

At first he thought to play it by the book. He’d separate the women. He’d ask them both a series of questions to gather more information. Maybe he would examine the child’s physical features and compare them to each woman. By taking some time and care and thought, he should be able to come to a decision with reasonable confidence. What more could be asked of him?

Then another thought came to him. “What if,” this voice in his spirit was telling him, “what if you threatened to cut the child in two?” Certainly the true mother would rather part with her child than let that happen.” The thought didn’t seem to come from his own head, it came from somewhere else.  It seemed ridiculous.

But then he remembered his dream. Maybe it had all been real. Maybe God had really given him something he hadn’t had before. Maybe this weird idea was the right one. Maybe wisdom was speaking to him.

So he decided to trust that voice of wisdom, and to act. He had a sword brought to him. He showed a tough exterior, but the truth was he was terrified. What if this backfired? Had he painted himself into a corner? The king had to follow through on threats, after all. Even so, he had made a choice, and he carried it out. The true mother immediately spoke to him from a place of deep compassion: “Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!”

It was then that Solomon knew, beyond a doubt, who the mother was. The mother was the woman who was more concerned for the child’s wellbeing than her own. The other woman was acting from deep grief. Her concern was for herself and her own needs, and understandably so. Solomon returned the child to its rightful mother. His dream, it turns out, had been real. He was given wisdom.

What was this wisdom, anyways?

Let’s say Solomon had been called in to judge this case the day before. He would have all the same facts. He’d have the same goal: to get the kid to the right mom. But he would have lacked the best way to get there.

Knowledge sees the world as it is. Vision sees the world as it should be. Wisdom sees the path between the two.

Solomon expected wisdom to be different. He expected decisions to be easier after gaining wisdom. But just the opposite happened. Decisions got harder. Wisdom always seemed to muddy the waters, suggest things that didn’t make sense. Wisdom’s suggestions were hard. Yes, things had turned out right this time, but what if they hadn’t? Could this voice of wisdom really be trusted?

If you know much about Solomon’s story, you know this story is somewhat of a high point for him. He soon stopped listening to that voice within himself. He instead went after women and wealth and made decisions that led to his own downfall and the downfall of Israel.

All the wisdom in the world is useless without the courage to act.

 

So how do we find wisdom in our own lives? How do find the courage to act on wisdom? How do we find the faithfulness to trust that wisdom’s voice is right? So often, wisdom pushes us the opposite way we think we should go. It seems silly or ridiculous, the exact opposite of so-called “common sense.” How do we find wisdom? How do we know we are hearing its voice?

 

We can start, as Solomon did, by asking God for wisdom. That might seem simple, but when I think of all the things people tend to ask God for, wisdom isn’t necessarily high on that list. Maybe we pray for financial relief, or for a relationship to improve, or for a new video game system. We might pray for health for ourselves and others. We might pray that our project is accepted well at work, or that we get good grades on a test. These are all perfectly good and faithful things to pray for. When Solomon prayed for wisdom, God told him: “I know you could have asked for other things but you asked for this.”

So we start by praying for wisdom, trusting that God will give us that gift. And then we listen for the voice of wisdom. When faced with decisions large and small, we do not rush to do the first thing that comes to our mind. We don’t go immediately for the obvious answer. We remember – wisdom is rarely obvious. Nor is it usually the first thing we think of. We don’t live in a culture that helps us listen for that wisdom, or help it grow. We prefer easy answers and simple solutions.

Wisdom speaks when we stop to listen. Christian author and minister Robert Short once said,

“The situation today is:

Lots of knowledge, but little understanding.

Lots of means, but little meaning.

Lots of know-how, but little know-why.

Lots of sight, but little insight.”[1]

Wisdom speaks when we stop to listen. Wisdom comes from prayer, reflection, conversation, study, discernment. I don’t actually think it’s much more complicated than that. All of have wisdom to offer, in our own way. But too many of us have been taught that we shouldn’t trust the wisdom inside of us; instead we are told to trust in people in charge or things we think will make us popular. We don’t have to think or pray or study or discern. Just follow along and keep comfy.

And then, when that voice speaks to us, that still, strange voice of wisdom, we must trust. For as the scriptures say, God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts. God’s ways are not our own.[2] Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.[3] So if the voice you hear seems strange, consider that it might just be God speaking to you. The stranger it seems, the more we listen. The less sense it makes, the more we consider that it may be true. The more scared we are, the more we imagine that God might be pushing us into something new and better.
May we, like Solomon, listen to the voices in our spirit. May we take some deep, deep breaths, then choose the voice of wisdom, gather up our courage, and act. Amen.

[1] https://www.preaching.com/articles/preaching-wisdom/

[2] Isaiah 55:8-9

[3] Proverbs 3:5

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