WISDOM TO DIVIDE ARIGHT
Lord, give me a healthy dose of the wisdom of Solomon.
Read 1 KINGS 3:16–28
A Wise Ruling
16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Solomon wasn’t the only king who understood the Lord’s demand for impartial justice on the part of judges. See Jehoshaphat’s wise counsel in 2 Chronicles 19:5–7.
Wisdom in Israel assumes the practical and not the abstract, as the empty philosophizing of some other cultures display it. So Solomon’s wisdom is demonstrated in the daily reality of dispensing justice. His brand of justice is available to all sections of the population. The terms that have been used in the previous verses for the nature of Solomon’s wisdom are echoed in Isaiah’s description of the Messianic Davidic king who will judge all things rightly. Reflecting on the injustices of the world, we know there is a Judge who is even wiser and greater than Solomon. He will discern the thoughts and inclinations of the heart and not judge by appearances. The Word that he has given is like a two-edged sword.
Solomon’s wisdom proves his understanding of the human heart and the natural affection a mother will have for her child. He assesses the testimony of two women at each other’s throat by presenting the possibility of neither mother having a living child. The true mother is revealed and the child is presented to her. Of the other mother we hear nothing more. Her lie has been uncovered, but no accusation of perjury or punishment is mentioned. It is enough that she is bereft of a child and her desire for motherhood is frustrated.
All humankind needs wisdom in the dispensation of justice. Societies with a substandard system of law and impartial judges allow all manner of evil to flourish. While we are assured of a final judgment in the next life, we need also to work towards societies where women like the two prostitutes can expect and receive justice in this life. Justice should not favor the rich, the well-connected or those offering a bribe, but should reflect the perfect justice of God. Churches should be known as micro-societies wherein all are treated justly and with great wisdom.
Pray for those countries of the world where there is little or no justice.
Lord, help me to conduct my affairs with the wisdom and impartiality that You require.
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