September 28, 2015
Cut the baby in half.
That seems an unreasonable directive… if you don’t know the whole story.
It was about 3000 years ago – a few election cycles in the past – when the new king of Israel was in his freshman year. Solomon was the come-from-behind winner of the Game of Thrones when he took over the palace from his father, David.
A young man – not the youngest in Israel’s history, but 20ish – when he ascends; one of his earliest challenges is to respond to a once-in-a-lifetime offer from God: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). What would you request?
He doesn’t miss a beat in his answer to the question: “…Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (v. 9).
God is so impressed with Solomon’s answer that he delivers exactly what he asked: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be…” (v. 12).
The first case before the new king involved two prostitutes who bring their challenge to the crown: both had infants, and they lived in the same home. During the night, one of the babies died, and his mother switched the dead baby for her housemate’s live child. In the morning light, the conflict arose between the two, and the question finds its way – immediately – to Solomon. Before the advent of DNA testing… how could one discern the truth?
The classic ruling has become a landmark case: Solomon ordered the live baby cut in two, with both mothers going home with a dead victory. Sadistic… or, shrewd?
Solomon knew that the real mother would rather lose her baby to another mom than to see her son lose his life: “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him! (v. 26). Verdict rendered: the sacrificial mom didn’t want to see her son sacrificed. “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” (v. 28).
In the latest polls in the race for the White House – with only 13 short months to go before the general election – the Republican field has tightened-up: “Donald Trump and Ben Carson are running neck and neck in the national Republican presidential horserace… according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll” (NBC News, yesterday).
In the last few months, Mr. Trump has been broadly quoted regarding his perspectives on various issues. One area of inquiry has been his personal – and, very private – faith. He is quick to reveal his personal statement of net worth; far more than his personal statement of faith. “Presbyterian” is his affiliation… but, his conversations with God are a bit more redacted. Has he ever sought forgiveness from God?
His original answer was, “No.” For what? When that didn’t set well – especially among Iowa’s conservative Evangelicals, he clarified: “When I drink my little wine – which is about the only wine I drink – and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”
We may be watching a fascinating face-off, between the Poster Kid for Pride and the surgeon who really did cut the babies – conjoined twins – in half. Wisdom is not merely the acquiring of knowledge, but the skillful living of life in submission to God’s will.