Friday, August 06, 2010

A Sword and Wisdom

King Solomon sits down on his throne as loyal servants hover around, but the busy hum of a royal court shatters as the frantic voices of women are overheard from the outside halls. Their voices loud—Solomon hears them plead for an audience with him.

The king chuckles to himself; he doesn’t like to get involved in women’s quarrels. After all, he’s earning a reputation as a wise king. However, his heart is drawn into the unfolding drama because of another sound. The cries of an infant are mixed in the fray.

He motions and two disheveled women rush in. In a sling in front of one woman, a tiny babe seems further irritated by the hasty entrance, but she makes no effort to comfort the child. He signals for a burly guard to console the infant until he makes a ruling. The massive soldier Hiram reaches for the baby, but a frown creases his brow as he awkwardly lifts the curled infant to his shoulder.

Solomon listens intently as the women argue their plights, each claiming to be the birth mother. They live in the same house and both delivered infant sons the previous week. However, one of the sons died in the night, and now both women swear the child—the obviously hungry baby held by Hiram—is theirs.

Solomon honestly cannot tell which woman speaks the truth, but he knows two facts: last night, one woman had a son die and one had a son stolen. He reasoned that even fools knew that added up to two inconsolable women. But who is the real mother? With a quick flick of his wrist, he signals for their bickering to stop.

Like a deep refreshing breath, a solution descends upon him. He looks toward Hiram, who cradles the infant, only whimpering by now, and Solomon wonders how the giant guard has managed to calm the babe. He calls out, “Hiram, unsheathe your sword!” Horror registers on the guard’s face, but he obeys. With his huge protective left hand, he cuddles the newborn securely against his shoulder. With his right hand, he holds the gleaming, keen-edged sword at ready. A collective gasps echoes, and then a hush falls over the room.

Solomon levels his gaze on each woman, searching for the least flicker of deceit, and then he shouts the command. “Half the child! Give half to each mother!”

Solomon’s gaze never flickers as he watches the mothers. He sees horror and indescribable pain register on one face, while the other woman slightly lifts her chin, signaling she’s won.

The pained woman cries out, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” Solomon has his answer. Only the real mother would be willing to give her son up to another to spare his life. At the king’s nod, Hiram sheathes his sword and hands over the infant to the grateful mother.

When Solomon began his reign, God told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Instead of asking for wealth, fame, or power, the new king literally asked God for a “listening ear” to make right judgments.

This past year, I’ve especially been aware of the truth of James’ observation, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

That’s a simple thing to do—just ask. How can we remember to do that more? This is what I did: I printed James’ words on an index card to circulate around my house to remind me to ask for wisdom. I’m a big fan of these small cards with scriptures printed on them to remind me of privileges (like asking for wisdom), of blessings (like receiving unmerited wisdom), and using God’s gifts (like the “listening ear”).

Our answers to achieving better relationships, solutions to life dilemmas, and making better choices can be summed up in this phrase—godly wisdom. James says to place your order with generous God. Need some? Then ask, seek, and knock and those efforts will open up a world of wisdom.

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