3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 6: 1 Kings

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.” – 1 Kings 3:16

In our last study we looked at how King Solomon (David’s son), when he became king, asked God for wisdom and God “gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, … (1 Kings 4:29-31)” We then looked at what Solomon wrote in the beginning of the book of Proverbs regarding some of the definitions and descriptions of what it means to be wise. For this week’s study, we’ll look at some specific actions that Solomon took while bearing God’s wisdom.

The Wisdom of Solomon (Part 2)

The story of Solomon’s reign is told in 1 Kings 1-11, 1 Chronicles 28-29 and 2 Chronicles 1-9. Much of these passages focus on his building and dedication of the temple. A few passages, though, give us further insight on how his actions were driven by the wisdom that God had given him. We also read some descriptions of his activity while enabled by God’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes, but within the context of his deliberate decision to disobey God. I wrote about that book in the very first study in this series and will briefly revisit it here.

Immediately after the story of Solomon requesting and receiving wisdom from God we are provided an example of how God’s wisdom benefited Solomon in his decision-making, and this story is the context for this week’s 3:16 verse (bolded below).

Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, ‘Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.’ But the other woman said, ‘No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.’ The first said, ‘No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.’ Thus they spoke before the king. Then the king said, ‘The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’’ And the king said, ‘Bring me a sword.’ So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.’ Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, ‘Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.’ But the other said, ‘He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.’ Then the king answered and said, ‘Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.’ And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.”

The 3:16 verse is not one that you would tend to print out nicely on paper, frame, and hang on a wall. But it does serve as a reminder to us of the context of this story. Solomon was faced with a “she-said/she-said” situation and had no other witnesses or evidence to go on. But note the final verse in the passage (1 Kings 3:28) – “And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” It was because of God’s wisdom that Solomon was enabled to perceive how to achieve a just judgment in this situation. And the method he chose, at first glance, appeared to be heartless and unjust, by giving the order to kill the child and give half to each woman. But, of course, Solomon had not intention of doing that. He used the apparently heartless action to reveal the true hearts of the two women and demonstrate to all what motives were underlying their actions. It was based on these revelations that he was able to discern how to properly proceed in rendering judgment about custody of the child. The point is that God’s wisdom will lead to righteousness.

In the first chapter of his first letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:18-31), Paul compares the wisdom of God to the “wisdom” of the world and draws a stark, but surprising, comparison. Here’s what he said.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’

We need to remember that God’s wisdom (which the passage above links directly with Jesus Christ) is seen as foolish according to the world (non-believers). As we stand on our convictions (as driven by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), we will continue to be at odds with the world. I am reminded, though, of what I have heard from others regarding this passage – that it does not give us license to be “jerks for Jesus.” We need to maintain integrity as we stand for our convictions in the face of an increasingly hostile world.

Returning briefly to Solomon’s story, we read in 1 Kings 11:4 that “… when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.” Essentially, in his later years, he chose to follow the foolish “wisdom” of the world and he tells about this endeavor in the book of Ecclesiastes. In that book he explains how he sought after and tried every pursuit and pleasure possible, using all the resources that God had blessed him with, but chasing everything except keeping his heart aligned with God’s will. However, he acknowledges that during these pursuits (and thereby being enabled and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write Ecclesiastes), “my wisdom remained with me (Ecclesiastes 2:9).” His conclusion at the end of the book (12:13-14) is this: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Our response to God needs to be to pay attention to the wisdom He provides through a vibrant, growing personal relationship with Jesus, and continual growth and study of God’s word to learn what Godly wisdom looks like and how to respond to the foolishness of the world, and then to wisely ACT on that wisdom in a manner that brings glory to God and helps to further the advancement of His kingdom!

Our next study will focus on the verses surrounding 2 Samuel 3:16.

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