A Divided Heart (09/03/2017)


Read 1 Kings 3:3-14; 11:1-4
It is too simple a statement to say that Solomon’s biggest problem was his desire for women. However, that was not exactly the least of his problems either. According to our reading from First Kings, Solomon had 1000 wives. Kinda makes your eyes glaze over just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
How could a person have 1000 wives? A person can’t have a relationship with that many people. But, perhaps a person could use that many people. And that may just tell us a great deal about Solomon right there. The question is – did he use God as well?
We are told in 1 Kings that “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.” (3:3) I didn’t really understand the phrase ‘high places,’ so I did a little bit of digging, and I discovered that whenever we read ‘high places’ in the Old Testament, it’s a phrase for the places where false gods were worshipped.
Solomon worshipped the God of Israel, but he also worshipped the gods of other nations. You could say he was willing to use anything – people or their gods – in order to gain power and riches for himself.
We heard in our reading, that early in his kingship, Solomon had a dream. And God appears to him, and offers Solomon a wish. God says, “Ask what I should give you.”
Now, even when dreaming, Solomon was no dummy. He knew that worship of false gods was against the Ten Commandments. He knew he was not living in obedience to God’s commands.
So, what should Solomon say?
Well, he also knew that his father David had had a good track record with the Lord. So, he reminds God of what good stock he comes from. “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today” (3:6).
Pretty shrewd, huh?
Instead of confessing his sin, and being honest about his disobedience, which is how we are taught to approach God, Solomon tries to ride piggyback off the good reputation of his father David. Solomon does not appear to be interested in a right relationship with God, but he is willing to use God.
It is then that Solomon asks for wisdom – “An understanding mind to govern your people,” is the way it’s worded. And according to how the story is told, God is pleased, because he doesn’t ask for the world. After all, he had God in a pretty vulnerable position, if there is such a thing.
You see, Solomon could have asked for anything. Instead, he asks only for one thing: an understanding mind. And we are told, because Solomon doesn’t ask for riches or power, God grants his request for wisdom, and gives him riches and power.
So, the wisdom, which supposedly marked Solomon’s reign as king of Israel, was seen as a direct gift from God.
But here’s the problem: Solomon’s life did not reflect the wisdom of God.
We’re given the impression – in our reading – that everything was fine until he got old and then it all began to fall apart. But history informs us that Solomon’s rule was more like a ravel in the hem of a garment. It started slowly, hardly without notice. Yes, under Solomon’s rule there was economic prosperity, and growth for the nation. But Solomon was an oppressive King. You could say he talked the talk – he wrote many of the proverbs in the Bible – but he didn’t walk the walk. And it was his oppressive leadership along with his thirst for riches and power that planted the seed for so many troubles in the nation of Israel.
Solomon lived in excess. He had a huge palace with very expensive furnishings made of ivory and gold. He had exotic animals from all over the world. He had twelve thousand horses and a fleet of ships. And these were all just for him.
And in order to pay for all this excess, Solomon taxed the people heavily, and he worked them hard – working them like slaves to build the temple and his palace.
And as the years unfold their hearts grew as hard as the toil under which they lived. And the people start thinking, ‘if this is what the promised of God’s kingdom looks like, we want nothing to do with such a God.’
In the minds of the people, if God’s anointed King treats them so harshly then God must be like that. Resentment, anger, and bitterness grow. And after Solomon, the nation descends into a civil war.
Solomon had so much going for him, including the obvious blessing of God, but in the end it all went down the tubes – because he tried to give his heart to two masters.
Remember what Jesus said about the impossibility of serving two masters? Matthew chapter 6 – “No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (6:24)
A professor at the seminary I attended introduced us to a book of devotions titled Markings, written by Dag Hammarskjold, who was Secretary General of the United Nations in the late 1950’s. He wrote this journal of spiritual search and despair in recognition of his failure to achieve his goals to eliminate war and improve human welfare around the globe. In his book Hammarskjold writes, “You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.” (Dag Hammarskjold, Markings (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), p. 15)
That was Solomon’s problem! He wanted both – his way and God’s blessing, falsehood and truth, cruelty and wisdom. Solomon had a divided heart. And this was the problem for almost all the Kings of Israel in the Old Testament of the Bible – a divided heart.
But, thank God that’s not the end of the story.
Finally, God sends prophets to the people to give them hope. A Messiah will come, they said, one who will not be like the Kings of old. This Messiah, this Son of God, will deliver the people and usher in the kingdom of God.
And that brings us to our gospel reading this morning, where Jesus is speaking to a great crowd of people who had been following him. He loves them deeply. He has healed various diseases and pains. Many people believe Jesus is the promised Messiah. They believe that in Jesus, the kingdom of God has come to earth. And yet, Jesus knows that people still misunderstand what God’s kingdom looks like.
And so, Jesus gathers the people and speaks to them.
Jesus teaches them that the kingdom of God is not found in riches or power or fame, but in gentleness, in a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and in mercy toward others. The kingdom of God is found in pure hearts that want to serve God, and God alone.
God sent his son, Jesus to our heal hearts from whatever conflicting loyalties or conflicting desires divide our hearts from God., This is what Solomon so desperately needed, and what our world needs today.
Both bible readings this morning would ask of us the question: ‘how is our heart?’ What are the things that divide our hearts, divide our loyalties, and draw us away from God? I have those things. I think we all do. And so today, I confess my weakness. But I also believe that Jesus bore all my sins on the cross, and there is my hope. In him there is grace, mercy, forgiveness, and help for my life.
We are invited to bring our hearts to Jesus, who loves us deeply, who has the power to heal our hearts and to make us whole.
Let us pray: Lord, gives us an undivided heart that we might serve you wholly and completely. When we hunger, may it be for you. When we thirst, may it be for your kingdom. When we see the needs of others, may our hearts be filled with your love. When we seek, may we find, and in our finding live for you. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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One Response to A Divided Heart (09/03/2017)

  1. Shirley Gunderson says:

    Seems like we have leaders much like Solomon trying to run our government today!!! WE are happy to announce that our new Pastor is Mark Olson!

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