Day 81: Falling from Grace—“The Choice” 1 Kings 9:1 – 11:43
March 22, 2021, 8:06 AM

Day 81: Falling from Grace—“The Choice” 1 Kings 9:1 – 11:43

Well that was a quick reign! Solomon came, he built, he abandoned God, he died. Apparently when there are not many battles, the story can be condensed. Solomon’s reign was, in fact, peaceful as far as we can tell, but in the space of six verses, his entire kingdom falls into pieces. From 10: 24 “The whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom,”  to 11:1 “King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite…” and so on. We are told about roughly a thousand of his wives in our reading and we are led to believe that the majority of them brought with them foreign gods and worship practices —can someone tell me how wisdom aligns with that?

In other words, God gave Solomon the gift of wisdom, but Solomon still had agency and free will about when to use it. He clearly had a weakness for women in his life, although the scripture tells us that “Solomon clung to these in love,” (11:2b) so the wives and concubines occupy a place close to Solomon’s heart, and Solomon’s wives as well as their foreign gods take the place of God at the center of Solomon’s life. God is also clear with Solomon that this sin of deserting God was not one of David's flaws (11:34), and that it is because of David's faithfulness that God does not take the whole kingdom from Solomon.

As Solomon gets close to “sleeping with his ancestors” (dying), we begin to see the deep rift that will develop in the united kingdom. Israel, in the north, and Judah, in the south, will split apart, and will have separate kings. The land of the 12 tribes, of God’s chosen people, once again becomes a battleground of kings, as we will read in a dizzying parade of names tomorrow.

But today, we have Jeroboam (the people contend –and if you would like a more contemporary meaning that has NOTHING to do with our reading: a wine bottle that holds four times the amount of a normal bottle of wine. Use that word at your next cocktail party: “I was going to bring a jeroboam of wine today, but the vintner ran out.”)

 Jeroboam becomes the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Of course, God gives Jeroboam a familiar warning: “If you listen to all that I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight by keeping my statutes and my commandments, I will be with you…” (11:38) I feel as though we should be reading those words with ominous music behind them every time they are uttered. We continue to see the abject failure of the people, of the rulers, of the kings, as they eagerly listen to God in order to get what they want, and they promptly turn away from God once they attain power.

David’s son, Rehoboam (he enlarges the people) is not named in this portion, but he will retain only a small portion of the kingdom, but a very important portion of the southern kingdom—the portion that contains Jerusalem. The City of David will not pass from the hand of his father, Solomon,  in order to keep the lineage of David connected with the holy place. As we will see, however, even the holy city will come under attack.

For now, I want to circle back to the ‘marriage’ of giftedness, charism and power. We should be able to predict, as we read, what will happen to the Chosen People as they continue to wander from God, but their wandering is sometimes due to those in leadership. This is where the idea of a theocracy (ruled by God) vs. a democracy (ruled by the people) becomes clearly delineated. The sins of the king are not only emulated by the people, but they are enforced by the person in power. Sometimes these sins are committed because the leaders fear a loss of power unless they give in to the people, and they do something concrete to calm them—think about the golden calf, because we will read more about this tomorrow.

Clearly it has never been easy to follow God, and if God was depending on his chosen human leaders to be stalwart and faithful, the experiment is not working. God seems to have so much faith in his people, or perhaps God is a realist but he continues to give his people the option of choosing his pathways vs. the pathways our human ego seems to want to create and follow.

I know that many of you have heard this before, but a handy little way to remember what ego means in relationship with God can be summed up in a classic Christian-ese acronym: EGO=Edging God Out. I actually find this one helpful in my own life because I see this happen to me, but let’s pay attention as to how this simple concept will play out  when we continue to study the kings of Israel and Judah. Tomorrow will be a virtual romp through kings and kingdoms, egos and anger, so be ready for the journey!

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

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