August 19th: “Ask”

Solomon’s love of God was flawed, yet God answered his request for wisdom. If we listen, we may hear God asking us what we need to participate in building the Kingdom of Heaven. If we respond faithfully, we will ask not for divine action, but for skills for ministry.

This Week’s Passage: 1 Kings 3:3-14

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, August 19th

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

3 Offering of sacrifices away from Jerusalem was prohibited by Deuteronomy 12:13-14. Yet Solomon receives his vision in such a place.

4 – Solomon’s sacrifice at Gibeon would parallel a protestant US president traveling to pray at the Wailing Wall, at St Peter’s Cathedral, at Mecca, to …

5 – I imagine God asking this question of each person: “What do you need for me to give you?” But only the most pious having ears to hear and a heart inclined to follow where the LORD would lead.

6-9 – Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication.

15 – Had this been a delusion of grandeur or a divine message? His response could either be penance for foolishness or thanksgiving. The ancients would have understood a dream as an epiphany.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is preceded by Solomon removing courtiers who were less than loyal. Although he had offered each mercy their dishonesty resulted in their deaths.
  • Including Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian woman and providing sacrifices at a place other than Jerusalem, shows his love of God has some serious flaws.
  • Solomon’s vision ends with verse 15.
  • Verse 16 provides an example of Solomon using this gift of wisdom. Perhaps he had been annoyed that a domestic dispute could distract him from matters of state and thereby ordered the child split to end the matter. Only when one offered to cede her half so the child might live did he demonstrate wisdom.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

2 Chronicles 1:3-13 – places the Tent of Meeting and bronze altar in Gibeon, justifying Solomon’s worship away from Jerusalem. And that Solomon went there to ask of the LORD before all Israel rather than out of worshipful respect of God. Solomon asked for confirmation of his kingship and wisdom. The request is phrased more powerfully. God’s presence at Solomon’s inquiry confirmed his power. Omits God’s second bonus of long life for righteousness. Omits subsequent worship at Jerusalem.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Hebrew words for “hand” appears throughout this passage — 2 … a third under the hand of Joab …; 4 … the king stood at hand the gate …; 12 … were weighed into my hands I would not lift my hand against the king’s son; 14 … three javelins in his hand …; 18 … it is called Absalom’s hand … — illustrating the problem of taking things into our own hands.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Presented as a record of events seasoned with a little theological reflection.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Solomon appears a one thrust into leadership, begging for wisdom to do what he has been tasked to accomplish. In Kings, Solomon sounds contrite. In Chronicles, Solomon sounds like an authoritative leader.

The LORD sounds like any doting father, rewarding his son for asking only for what he needs to accomplish the tasks laid before him.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Solomon’s contrite request for wisdom to face the task of leadership.
  • Emotional Center: God awards gifts beyond Solomon’s request.
  • Music: “Seek Ye First”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Solomon violated David’s statutes by marring a foreign woman and sacrificing at one of the high places other than Jerusalem, yet God had granted him great gifts.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Will God similarly hear my request? Or more appropriately, what request would God have me ask?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Choon Leong Seow (“The First and Second Books of Kings,” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 1999.) notes that Solomon had no excuse for worshiping away from Jerusalem, as the Ark was in Jerusalem. Seow finds this dream sequence comparable to other accounts from this era, affirming Solomon’s kingship by the appearance of God in his dream. Seow cautions interpreters to present a more nuanced view of Solomon, who loved the LORD, but whose actions were tainted at several significant episodes. Thus: “It is the very human, selfish, negligent, Solomon who benefits from God’s self-revelation and gifts.”

Walter Brueggemann (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Kings. John Knox Press, 1982.) interprets 1 Kings as edited to make a theological point with a keen sense or irony for those who are perceptive of the incongruities between what appears to be true and what is understated. Brueggemann begins the pericope with verse 1, placing the theological lesson in reality of international politics. This marriage of the King of Israel with an Egyptian woman violated Deuteronomic law, yet is presented with out judgment against Solomon.

P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. (Harper’s Bible Commentary, James Luther Mays, Editor. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc. 1988.) opines that the “story of Solomon’s dream has been expanded editorially by the insertion of certain materials lacking in the parallel version of the event in 2 Chron. 1:3-13, which seems to have escaped Deuteronomistic editing.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Since the LORD graciously answered Solomon’s prayers, we should also expect the LORD to answer our prayers.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Solomon used a widely accepted formula for prayer: Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. He asks not for himself, but so that he might accomplish God’s mission in the world.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

If we listen, we may hear God asking us what we need to participate in building the Kingdom of Heaven. If we respond faithfully, we will ask not for divine action, but for skills for ministry.

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