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First Impressions: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

August 11, 2009

Did this week’s lesson inspire Jesus’ teaching to “strive first for the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33)?

David died and left the throne to his son by Bathsheba.  Solomon, after securing his authority through a brutal cleansing of his enemies, sought God’s favor through an enormous sacrifice—a thousand burnt offerings.  In turn, God gave Solomon the opportunity to choose a gift, anything at all.  Solomon unselfishly chose wisdom to rule the people.  God, impressed with the young man’s choice, not only granted Solomon’s request, he also added riches and honor.  Finally, as long as the new king kept God’s commandments, God would also give him a long life.  Did Jesus have Solomon in mind when he promised his followers that all needful things would be given to them as long as they first sought God’s kingdom?

2:10-12 This is a simple summary of David’s death and Solomon’s succession.  The Lectionary is finished with David and wants to move on as quickly as possible.  The full story, however, includes David’s instructions to Solomon about what to do with certain troublesome characters, including the ever faithful, ever useful Joab.  In most cases, Solomon was to send them to Sheol (1 Kings 2:5-9), completing the revenge that the honor-bound David could not accomplish.

3:4 Are these thousand burnt offerings part of Solomon’s youthful enthusiasm for God’s will and favor, much like his father’s?  Is there a sermon in this text about our own journey in life?  Our middle-aged and older selves are jaded and cynical when compared to our earlier years.  Solomon and David both became very comfortable in their roles and lost some of their fire for service and obedience.  Does this inevitably happen to all of us?  How do we avoid that fate?

3:6-9 This is a beautifully humble request.  Solomon truly seems to be seeking God’s kingdom first.  This is what we are at our best.  It is true that none of us can maintain this level of devotion, but it is nice to know it is in each of us.  That potential is there.  A helpful sermon could remind the hearers that we can each experience moments like this, when my will seems perfectly allied with God’s.  We can all be—at least momentarily—the people God has created us to be.

3:10-14 God was pleased and decided to give Solomon much more than he requested.  The cynical part of me wonders if the request itself was something of a test.  Was God using the dream to discover who Solomon really was?  Or was it a way for Solomon to discover something about himself?

Especially because God made Solomon’s long life conditional upon the king’s obedience, it would be too easy for people to hear this text or careless preachers to preach this text in a way that equates faithfulness with success, riches or good health.  That theology can be found in scripture, but it does seem antithetical to the overall tone of the Bible.  The most faithful people in scripture also seem to be the ones who are most persecuted.  Long life and riches elude the most faithful of God’s servants in scripture.

Illustrations and Other Possibilities Kathryn Schifferdecker, an Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, suggests that a preacher use this text to explore Solomon’s life and witness in more detail.  In an article at WorkingPreacher.org, she also writes that this would be a perfect opportunity to preach about wisdom and its biblical attributes.  Schifferdecker also provides a potential opening question for the sermon: “What would you wish for if you could wish for anything?”

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