King’s wisdom, prophet’s power
July 15 — 1 Kings 3:16-28, 2 Chronicles 9:8; July 22 — 2 Kings 8:1-6By Regina Shands Stoltzfus
The Book of 1 Kings continues with the story of Israel’s monarchy. The beginning chapters describe the transition of power to Solomon after David’s death. On his deathbed, David charges his son with keeping the commandments of the Lord (1 Kings 2:2) so that he may rule in peace and maintain unity among the people. Solomon, however, acts ruthlessly, orchestrating the deaths of those who might weaken his power base, including his own brother.
But God has established that Israel’s kings are not to be like the kings of other nations. The ones to whom God grants power and authority are to demonstrate God’s qualities, particularly in terms of justice. The king rules as God’s representative (Deut. 17:14-20).
While dreaming, Solomon prays for an understanding mind with which to govern. He asks that he will be able to tell the difference between what is good and what is evil. God grants Solomon a wise and discerning mind and also blesses him with material possessions. Solomon is promised that if he keeps God’s commandments he will be blessed with a long life (3:14).
Solomon’s wisdom and leadership are tested when two women lay claim to a newborn child. Solomon cleverly discerns the truth. When the people of Israel hear about the judgment they recognize God’s wisdom has been placed in Solomon (3:28). Here wisdom is recognized as the rendering of justice.
Solomon’s wisdom becomes known throughout Israel and beyond. The queen of Sheba even comes to him with her questions, and witnesses the vast riches of Solomon’s kingdom. In exchange for his help, the queen gives him even more.
The queen also recognizes the source of Solomon’s greatness. Not only is Solomon wealthy and honored, but his people are happy. Even the servants are happy. Surely this is no ordinary ruler. The gift of God’s wisdom is a sign of God’s covenant with Solomon and recognition of the love God has for Israel.
All those who are appointed as leaders similarly carry the recognition of God’s love and care and are charged with abiding by God’s commandments.
Biblical prophets were charged with proclaiming the word of God. They reminded the people of God’s commandments and sounded a warning when they went astray.
But the prophets were not only about doom and gloom. They also were a constant reminder to the people of the opportunity for redemption and forgiveness and starting over. The prophets speak the words of God’s anger and disappointment but also of God’s overwhelming love for Israel.
As Solomon succeeds David as king of Israel, the prophet Elisha follows in the footsteps of Elijah after Elijah is carried off to heaven in a fiery chariot and whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). The miracles Elisha performs leave no doubt about the power he wields as a prophet. They look ahead to the time when he will also gain political influence.
During a time of famine, Elisha saves a woman’s life by urging her to go to Philistia, where there is sustenance. He had previously resurrected her son from the dead. When the famine is over, the woman returns to find her house and land have been taken by the enemy.
As she goes to make an appeal to the king for the return of her property, she inadvertently gives testimony to the great deeds of Elisha. The king is so impressed by her report that the woman receives back all of her property, plus more. She receives blessings upon blessings because of Elisha’s faithfulness. The man of God is able to restore life once again. As leaders, God’s people have the option of choosing to heal, or to harm.
Regina Shands Stoltzfus lives in Elkhart, Ind., and teaches peace studies and Bible at Goshen College.
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