July 26, 2020
St. John’s United Church of Christ, Union, Illinois
Solomon, one of the greatest kings of
And “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.” Solomon was given the gift of wisdom, and success followed after. Solomon’s reign was long, prosperous, and for the most part peaceful. “For the greater part of his 40-year reign Solomon preserved and enriched David’s kingdom without large-scale warfare” through treaties, marriages, business links and trade.
“During Solomon’s reign Israel experienced a flowering of the arts.” Music, literature, and scholarship flourished. Many of the Psalms were written during this period, and the “wisdom school” – that later produced the books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes – was formed.
Of course, Solomon is probably best known for building the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was an extravagant stone building with magnificent decorations in wood gold. It was built next to the palace, surrounded by the walls of the king’s compound.
But, even Solomon, with all that he accomplished, wasn’t perfect. The “high places” were altars to different
gods, and each city would have a high place dedicated to one or more gods. The people of Israel were supposed to offer
sacrifices only to the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem. But Solomon was tempted to worship other
gods. “The king went to
Solomon built the Temple, but he built his own palace first, an opulent structure of cedar and stone. And, “The… temple itself was an affront to some Israelites… with the temple in the king’s compound, it seemed [it] had become the personal property of the king.”
The beautiful buildings were built by slaves and conscripted workers. The people were heavily taxed to support the king’s household. Resentment of Solomon’s harsh rule began to build. The people grew angry with Solomon building high places dedicated to other gods. The northern tribes began to rebel. “Within a short time after Solomon’s death in 922 bce, Israel’s empire disintegrated and the nation was divided into two rival kingdoms.”
Solomon was one of the greatest leaders in history. No one like him came before him and no one like him arose after him. And in the end, he fell from greatness. His kingdom shattered; his vanity got the best of him. He turned his back on his people and turned to serve his own selfish desires. But there was a moment when he got it right. There was a moment when he was truly inspired. The Lord came to him in a dream and he responded.
In that moment he reached for his people. He sought his duty. He turned to the only one who could give the greatest ruler in the world what he needed most in order to be able to rule a great people with justice and righteousness. In that moment Solomon turned to God and asked for the greatest gift ever given, the gift of wisdom, and not for his own benefit, but in order to rule God’s own people.
When we pray, and ask God for things, we often ask for health for our selves or our loved ones. We ask for what we need to get through today, or a difficult time. Lately I’ve been praying for perseverance to make it through the time of COVID. I’ve been praying for people who are struggling to make ends meet, who have lost jobs and businesses, or a breadwinner or beloved partner, or a child. Perhaps I should pray for more wisdom, or patience, or faith that God hasn’t turned away from us.
Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Lead us not into temptation…” Jesus knew that every day we are pulled in a thousand directions by temptation. “Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” But God doesn’t turn away from us. God comes to us even when we are lost in temptation, sin and darkness. Even though Solomon turned his back on the Lord, even as he turned away to follow other gods, the Lord did not turn away from Solomon. God reached out to him, offering whatever he might ask. God didn’t turn away from Solomon, and God doesn’t turn away from us.
The greatest gift…
For Solomon, the greatest gift that he could ask of God was wisdom. And for a thousand years it was the greatest
gift. In three thousand years, only one
gift has ever been given that was greater than what Lord gave to Solomon at
The greatest gift ever given was not asked for. It wasn’t given for keeping the Laws of Moses. It wasn’t given to people who were perfect, never broke the law, never sinned. Rather, the greatest gift was given to those who didn’t deserve it. What gift could be greater than wisdom? The greatest gift ever given was grace, the grace of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus embodies the grace of God, and shows us how that grace becomes embodied in us. A theologian named Grace Ji-Sun Kim wrote, “By grace people are redeemed, commissioned to serve, empowered, led, endowed with gifts, and made skillful. The Christian life begins in grace and continues in grace.” Grace is a gift given to all those who seek it. God offers grace so that we may live out our full humanity and stand in solidarity with all who suffer, all who are lost and broken, all who are burdened by sin and evil.
We don’t have to travel to the ruins of the second Temple in Jerusalem. We don’t have go to a high place or make a special sacrifice. God’s grace is given to us wherever we are, in any moment when we understand that we need it. And in grace we are set free to live the life shown to us in Jesus. Jesus: the bringer of good news to the poor. Jesus: the healer, friend to tax collectors and sinners. In Jesus we are washed clean of all of our faults, all of our temptations, all of our sin, and we become new beings.
We need not wait until we are perfect before we seek the grace of God. We don’t need to acquire wisdom before we can seek the kingdom. We need only begin where we are, with faith as small as a mustard seed. God accepts us with grace, just as we are, imperfect, tempted, sinners. And in the grace of God we find the wisdom needed to grow God’s kingdom. With forgiveness, compassion, and love, we spread tiny seeds of God’s grace, we mix a small amount of yeast into the bread of our communities.
May God grant unto us wisdom and courage. May God empower us with grace to seek justice and peace for all people. May God teach us to follow Jesus Christ and live in grace every day of our lives. Amen.
Kings 3:5. Unless otherwise noted, the scripture quotations contained herein
are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the
Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of
Christ in the
 1 Kings 3:9.
 1 Kings .
 The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Great People of the Bible and How They Lived (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1974), 148.
 Great People, 150.
 1 Kings 3:4.
 Great People, 192.
 Great People, 151.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, The Grace of Sophia: A
Korean North American Women’s Christology (