Depend on the Lord’s strength

trustRead 1 Kings 3:3-14
Let me set the stage for you. We’re in the Old Testament of the Bible. The years is about 1000 BC. Israel has transitioned from tribal rule, where each of the 12 tribes of Israel had their own governing structure, to a time of the centralized rule of a King. Last Sunday, we heard a story about King David, and this morning, a story of his son, Solomon, who takes the throne after his father, David dies.
Immediately, upon taking the throne, Solomon emerges as a violent character. There is a long section in First Kings, chapter 2, which describes Solomon’s violent behavior. We read in the second chapter how Solomon consolidates his power with a ruthless purge of his opposition. He has his half-brother and rival Adonijah killed, David’s general, Joab, is killed, and several others.
Solomon “takes the bull by the horns,” as we say, and through this violent purge of his opposition, establishes himself as King.
That being said, by the time we get to this morning’s Bible reading, in the third chapter of First Kings, we see a completely different side of Solomon.
It happens one night that God appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask what I should give you.” (1 Kings 3:5) In other words, “make your prayer request, Solomon, God is listening.”
Solomon first expresses great appreciation for all that God gave to Solomon’s father, King David. “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father, David,” says Solomon, “because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you.” (1 Kings 3:6) David wasn’t perfect, by any means, but he lived in faith toward God, seeking God’s help, God’s guidance, and God’s strength.
Then Solomon continues his prayer to God by showing humility in asking for what he wants and needs. “Although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.” (1 Kings 3:7b-8)
Part of me wonders if Solomon – when his father David died – thought, “Well, how hard could this be to be King?” But then after a little while, he realizes that he haz “bitten off more than he cn chew,” and he feels overwhelmed by this task of ruling over all these people.
Have you ever done that? I mean, have you ever taken on a task that you thought would be really easy and then – after diving in headfirst – realized you were in over your heard?
What I love so much about this passage is what Solomon does after he sees the great responsibility before him. He doesn’t try to lead on his own. He doesn’t charge forward trying to control things with more violence.
Rather, he asks God for help. “Give your servant therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9)
Here is a powerful leader, who humbles himself before God, showing himself to be needy, asking God for help. In other words, he allows himself to be weak before God.
There is something about our society that makes us think that we have to handle everything on our own. Be a leader, take charge, do the job…and if you’re weak or needy or need help, well, there must be something wrong with you.
And yet – this prayer from King Solomon shows us that, before God, we are allowed to be weak and needy. This prayer shows us that we should be open to God about our weaknesses and needs, and that we should look to God every day for his help.
We know this is what God wants because of what we read next: “It pleased the Lord,” the scripture says, “that Solomon had asked this.” (1 Kings 3:10)
God wants us to let him into our lives, to be humble and needy before him, and to seek his help in our lives. It pleases God. And God is good to us when we open up that door in our lives.
A little over 4 years ago, I was at the Synod assembly in Northwestern Minnesota. We were considering a resolution that was in response to the ELCA decision to ordain gay and lesbian pastors in committed, publically accountable relationships. The debate was getting heated. And the Bishop calmly brought the room to order and paused for a prayer. By the time he said “Amen,” the anxiety level in the room had dropped. This happened several times in the course of our assembly. In those moments of prayer we asked God to enter into our conversation, to give us wisdom, and to help us discern what God would have us do.
It was in those moments of prayer we realized that it’s okay to admit to God our need and to seek his help and guidance.
It’s okay to be weak and needy and dependent before God.
And so I want to ask you a person question, because I think this is important: Is there time for God in your life? Obviously, if you come to church the answer is yes, but what about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and the rest of the week? Is there time for God? Can you turn your attention to God during the day and pray, asking God to give you faith to see what he is doing in your life – the lessons he is teaching you, the direction he is leading you in your life, the opportunities he is putting in front of you to serve him? Some people pray while traveling in the car, others pause for prayer when they sit down to eat, others pray when they go to bed at night.
Our prayers do not cause God to do his work in our lives – God is already at work in our lives – but our prayers help us to see it, to receive it, to follow it, and to respond to it.
I paired this reading from First Kings this morning with Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. Paul begins this section by saying, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” It means that God , through his Spirit, is at work in our lives. God is with us in our imperfections, with us in our neediness, with us in our struggles. God is at work in our lives, “Conforming us to the image of his Son.” Therefore, when we pray, we can trust that God will be merciful to us, help us and guide us, and give us strength.
To have that grace of God in our life, Jesus tells us, is like stumbling upon a buried treasure in a field, it’s worth more than anything.
I had mentioned how Solomon took the throne of his father David with violence and then paused with humility to ask God for help. And if it ended there, it would be a great story to tell – Solomon, living out his life, looking to God every day for help and wisdom and strength.
Unfortunately, Solomon was not that humble throughout the entirety of his life. His violent side came back. But I don’t think that his inconsistency should diminish what he did that day in his prayer to God. Because none of us will have those moments where we humble ourselves, seek out God’s help and then fall back into our old habits.
Life is a journey, one where we wake up every day and have to decide how we want to live our lives. Some days we will be humble and seek God’s help. We will admit that we are needy and weak, and God will be there. But there will be other days when we forge ahead on our own and ignore God’s place in our lives. And so on those days we need to pause, take a deep breath and invite God into our lives once again. It is not about finding perfection and setting up camp there; it is about allowing ourselves to be weak along the journey.
But like Paul said, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Amen.

Advertisements

About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
Gallery | This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s