The wisdom of Solomon
1 Kings 3:1-28
“Cor,” they might say in some pan-regional accent, “It would take the wisdom of Solomon to sort that lot out!”
Solomon was the son of David and as such there must have been high hopes for him. It was prophesied that the seed of David would build the house of God and sit on an eternal throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
Well Solomon does end up building the physical temple – replacing the old tabernacle. This temple was the house of God, so to speak. And the name Solomon means “Peace.”
Was Solomon the Son of David, the eternal King, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah?
No. And his later years would make that abundantly clear. But in the early years he pointed beautifully to the reign of Christ. And it’s his wisdom that especially foretells Jesus’ reign.
It all came about in 1 Kings 3 when Solomon asked for wisdom from the LORD.
“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, “Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days”. (1 Kings 3:9-13)
As with Samson’s strength, the Bible makes clear that Solomon’s wisdom is not a natural endowment. This is a gift from the LORD. God’s King would reign in the power of God’s Gift. We’re being told that the Son rules in the power of the Spirit. And the Spirit of Wisdom equips this christ to rule justly.
In the same chapter there is a famous example of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 3:16-28). Two prostitutes come to him. Each had a son. One of the sons has just died. Solomon is faced with two competing claims. The first woman currently has the dead child but says that the living child is hers. She claims that the other woman swapped the children in the night. The second woman denies it.
Who is telling the truth? To whom does the living child belong?
Well Solomon, full of the Wisdom of God, asks for a sword to be brought:
“Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other”. (v25)
The first prostitute is aghast and says:
“O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it”.
And so Solomon discerns the true mother. His wisdom has been proved.
It’s a wisdom that is able to judge between two women bearing two offspring. This might remind us of the most ancient gospel promise: Genesis 3:15. There will be “enmity” between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. There will be righteous offspring and wicked offspring. One offspring unto life and the other unto death.
And in Solomon’s court there appeared a miniature version of this global truth. One woman bears a living offspring, the other a dead offspring. How can we tell who is who? Here’s how: judge their response to the living one! If they would be happy to see the living offspring die, then they are the liar and they have borne fruit unto death. If they love and cherish the living offspring, they show themselves to truly belong to him – and he to them.
Solomon makes that most fundamental judgement call – discerning between those who cling to the living offspring, and those who wish him dead. This was a single example of his wise rule. But it gives a snapshot of a far greater judgement scene.
There will be a day when Christ, the true Son of David, will judge the whole earth. Who could be equal to such a task? To judge justly needs incredible discernment. But on that day we will praise His Wisdom as “one greater than Solomon.” We can have confidence that the world’s judgement is in good hands. He is wiser than even wise Solomon.
But his criteria for judgement will be basically the same. Those who love Him – the true Offspring, the living and life-giving One –will be given Him. Those who do not love Him will not receive Him. They will be left fruitless and dead. This is what will divide the whole world. And uniquely, Jesus has the wisdom to discern it in every man, woman and child.
On Solomon’s little judgement day, his kingdom resounded with tales of his wisdom. But when we see the rightness of Christ’s cosmic judgement, both earth and heaven will combine to praise forever the Wisdom of Jesus.
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