The story from today’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 3:16-28) is one that I remember hearing in Sunday School when I was a boy. Two women come to King Solomon, seeking justice. Both have recently given birth to sons, but in the night one child has died. Both women claim that the living boy is theirs, and Solomon must decide who’s telling the truth.
You might remember, of course, that in the passage just before this (on which I commented yesterday), Solomon had asked God for wisdom and discernment. And so, he comes up with a brilliant but unorthodox way to determine which women is telling the truth. He calls for the living child to be cut in half, so that one half can be given to each woman. At this, one woman relents; she calls for the child to be given to her adversary rather than put to death. The other woman, however, readily agrees that the child should be killed. And just like that, Solomon has made it quite clear who the true mother is.
In context, this story, I think, is meant to demonstrate Solomon’s wisdom. But one little detail, which I don’t remember being told when I was a boy in Sunday School, is that both of the women who appeared before the king were prostitutes. Now, for better or worse, I don’t know a great deal about the cultural and religious attitudes toward prostitution during the Davidic monarchy. But I think it’s fair to say that the Bible, in general, places women of ill-repute outside the circle of polite society and seems more concerned with labeling their sin than with welcoming them into the fullness of life with God…
Until Jesus shows up. And then, in Him, we’re given a picture of a God incarnate who hangs out with all the wrong people: with prostitutes and tax collectors and other sinners. And so, who knows? Perhaps this ancient story — in addition to revealing the wisdom of Solomon — also reveals a God whose heart is bigger than ours, and who desires wholeness and blessing and justice for all — even for those who we think don’t deserve it.
Who are the people in our world (and in our lives) to whose welfare we are sometimes tempted to burn a blind eye?
May God give us His heart, and make us people of wisdom and discernment and justice for all.