Week of July 15: Divine wisdom judges the heart
Lesson for week of July 15
Scripture: 1 Kings 3:16-28; 2 Chron. 9:8
By Kim Reindl
• Have you ever been in a situation when you were faced with determining the truth between two opposing points of view? If yes, how did you decide what was “true?”
Have you ever been caught in the middle of an argument with no clear way to discern who is telling the truth? If you are a parent, you may have found yourself in the midst of a squabble between siblings that made you want to throw up your hands and run from the room! Or, if you are like me, you may have watched the current political debates and wondered who, if anyone, is really telling the truth. The ability to discern the truth is not always easy. In today’s scripture passage, King Solomon is faced with such a dilemma. In fact, it is only through a divine gift of wisdom—the knowledge of what is good and true—that Solomon is able discern truth and “execute justice”(1 Kings 3:28).
In this story, Solomon uses Godly wisdom to identify the “true” mother. Without undergoing a formal investigation, gathering character witnesses, or examining physical evidence, Solomon determines the truth of the situation. How does he do this? The passage tells us that Solomon knows the “true” mother because “compassion for her son burned within her” (1 Kings 3:26).
Interestingly, Solomon is able to execute divine justice because he acts with wisdom that discerns the heart. The true mother’s heart is for her child. Although this woman would be right if she argued the facts of the case and established her correctness in the situation, in doing so she would risk the well-being of the child that she loves. Even in a culture where this woman’s hopes and dreams for the future are most likely tied to mothering her son, she is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the child.
This passage illustrates how God’s justice often differs from earthly justice. Our human inclination is to argue that in order for something to be just it must be fair. With human certitude we contend that those who follow the rules are just and those who do not are unjust. Yet the biblical witness calls this interpretation into question. God’s justice appears to consider more that right and wrong. God’s justice moves us into a realm beyond the certitude of the law (i.e., our “right” beliefs or “right” thinking) into a place of relationship.
The ultimate expression of this point comes in the form of self-sacrificial love of God who never gives people merely what they deserve. If such were the case, not one of us would escape punishment for sin (“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23). God’s main concern is for relationship, so much that he empties himself of all that he is in order for us to share in all that he has (Phil. 2:6-8).
The same is true of the first mother in the story who reflects the heart of God when she chooses not to stand on principle, but rather to give her “rights” away for the sake of the one she loves. Solomon, in his Godly wisdom, is able to discern this compassion of the heart. It is through such that the true mother revealed.
I often think that it must pain God greatly when we choose division over compassion in the name of defending what is “right.” I believe that it grieves God deeply when we prefer adherence to the “rules” over concern for and love of the person who stands before us. God’s justice acts from a wisdom that recognizes that the greatest law, as revealed by Jesus, is to love God and to love one another (Matt. 22:37-39). We must remember that Jesus argued vehemently against the Pharisaic interpretation of the law which disregarded compassion in favor of self-righteousness.
Divine justice has a way of going straight to the “heart” of the matter. Hence, through mercy and compassion, may we be called the “true” children of God because we, like our Father, are most concerned with what is loving.
Questions for further reflection:
• Recollect stories from scripture that illustrate how God’s justice moves beyond the mere determination of what is “right” and “wrong” to the realm of what is compassionate and loving. What is to be learned about God from these stories?
• In your opinion, do people (Christians in particular) tend to judge situations according to facts and principles, or, like Solomon, according to Godly wisdom that discerns the heart? In your experience, are people more concerned with adherence to the rules or the preservation of relationship?
Kim Reindl is Vice-Chair of the Nurture Team for the North Georgia Conference and is the founder of Pomegranate Christian Education & Formation. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.