Second Sunday After Christmas January 2, 2022
“A New Start” I Kings 3:4-15
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Some years ago I left the Jefferson County Courthouse confused. One of my parishioners had asked me to attend the custody hearing concerning his children. I had spent some time with him as he went through his divorce. I thought I knew the situation and what might happen before I entered the courtroom.
I was mistaken. I knew one side – his. I really didn’t know the other side – hers. The judge got to listen to their strong words and their accusations against each other. And their children were caught in the middle. I couldn’t tell who was telling the truth and who was lying, but I knew they both couldn’t be speaking the truth.
Though I was confused in this situation I knew that I wasn’t the one who was going to decide the future for these two adults and the children they had had together. But there was someone who would have to make a tough decision – that judge. I prayed for that judge. I prayed that they would have the gift of wisdom – the lives of many people would be affected by what they decided.
Wisdom, making choices that are right and godly and timely, is no easy part of our life. But it is necessary. We begin a New Year and the one thing that we will need as we mark a new start is wisdom. Our reading is from I Kings. The character that we run into is Solomon. Young Solomon, the son of the great king – David, is in over his head. He is young and inexperienced and now he has been appointed king.
Then we read something that changed his life and the life of God’s people. The Lord came to Solomon in a dream and asked the question, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Anything!! After praising God for blessing his father, David, with such grace, Solomon gets to his request: Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So 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? (I Kings 3:7-9)
This calling that God had given him was too much. He didn’t have what it would take to be successful in this work. He could only fail. Unless. Unless God would give him what was needed to do such a work. This new start, really new start, began with humility and the utter dependence on God’s wisdom.
Solomon sounded like he had learned something from the anguish that Moses had felt years ago when he was leading the people of Israel through the desert toward their Promised Land. “Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his own tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, ‘Why have you brought this trouble to your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these peoples?’ They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:10-14) Solomon must have heard, or had to have read, what Moses went through. He knew if he was going to be a ruler, a leader, he couldn’t do it by himself – he needed God’s wisdom in his mind and soul. God, in His great generosity, filled Solomon with great wisdom.
Have you gotten to that point that you wonder if you can do all of this? This – the duties of work, family, church. This – making it through the pandemic without losing your mind. This – feeling inadequate to what you know you have to do. This – making the right choice, the wise step, avoiding messing up everything. If you’re there than you can join in the same prayer of Solomon. “Lord, I am only a child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” “Give me a discerning heart to distinguish between right and wrong.”
But how does it happen? How can we go from doing what is foolish or dumb to being someone making wise choices? What can make us wise? Who can make us wise? God’s Word, the Scriptures, God’s Holy Bible, can make you and I wise. That Word can save us and transform us. That Word will give us a new start. Psalm 119, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Verse 105) Colossians 3, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Verse 16) And, of course, the brilliant word in II Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:14-17) God’s Word makes you wise. But you have to read it. You have to apply it to your life. You have to believe what it says and do what it says. As the Book of Proverbs, one of the books of wisdom in the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
But wisdom can be lost, just as faith can be lost. Young Solomon was the best Solomon. As Solomon grew he didn’t become wiser but dumber. His faith didn’t become purer but grew weaker. Just eight chapters from the brilliance of Solomon’s prayer we read this, “Solomon had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been…So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.” (I Kings 11:3-4, 6)
Wisdom isn’t a once-for-all thing. It is an everyday thing. This is the direction that God gave to His beloved, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-4)
A new start is a new way to live. A new start is also one that has forgiveness from God. There have been too many times in our past that you and I have lived in foolishness, ignorance, or just plain rebellion. We have not loved God as we are to love Him. God, in His wisdom, gives us, His beloved, a new beginning, a fresh start. In the book of Jonah this line tells us that God deals with us with love and grace, “And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” (Jonah 3:1) You know what Jonah did when God spoke to him the first time, right? He decided he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, the wicked enemy of God’s people. He went west when he was told to go east. But God stopped him and brought him back. And, with forgiveness, He spoke again. God didn’t give up on Jonah. “And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” And He doesn’t give up on you. The word of the Lord comes to us a second time, or a third, or a hundredth time, as well. In Jesus, God speaks a word of our forgiveness.
The best thing you’ll ever do, the wisest thing you’ll ever do, is to know Jesus and His love and forgiveness. The best thing, the wisest thing you’ll ever do, is to live by His word and His will – to have the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit in your life.
It’s a new start today. I’m ready. You too. Amen!!