1 KINGS 3:16-27
This is a story of love… a love so great that a mother was willing to let another woman have her child rather than see it die.
This is a story of jealousy… a jealousy so great that a woman was willing to see a child divided rather than let it live and have another enjoy it.
This is a story of two mothers who travailed in pain to bring forth children… who endangered their own lives to give life to their children.
This is a story of a wise king who used a mother’s love to identify the true parent.
This is a story with a lesson for all church strife.
There comes a time in every controversy when the end result becomes more important than the issue… when it is no longer important who is right or who is wrong but who will suffer.
When parents quarrel, it is usually the children who are hurt. When marriages break up, it is the child who suffers. When mothers who have travailed in pain to bring children into the world think more of themselves than of their offspring, it is the offspring who are jeopardized.
Church conflicts sometimes end in courtrooms. More often, however, church conflicts end at deathbeds where angry parents blame one another for the cold corpse in the bed. And what makes the scene more tragic is that other children have already died, and a tragedy is added to tragedy as the last of the living joins the dead… all because the parents would not love and forgive.
But it does not have to happen. One mother, with great love, can bring a solution to church controversy. So great was this mother’s love that she was willing that a woman who was not the mother nurse it. So great was her love that she was willing for her child to be called by another’s name! So great was her love that she was willing for her baby to be brought up in another household. You see, to her it was no longer a matter of who was right and who was wrong. Her overpowering concern was the life of her child!
What a terrible dilemma! What an awful decision! Some might have said, “I’d rather see my child dead than to have that woman as its mother.” And how often we have seen it happen in church controversy, that the one who has travailed to bring forth chooses to see her child die rather than to have another nurse it!
“But,” I can hear someone say, “see what a terrible woman she is. She is a harlot… she killed her own baby… she is telling lies… she is not fit to be a mother… she will allow my child to die just as she did her own!” True… all true… but…
The true mother was also a harlot. She was no angel, either! Both women were weak. Both women were sinful. But it is important to remember that they were both Israelites. It was not a matter of giving the child to a Philistine. It was not even a matter of giving the child to the better woman. The only difference between the two was the fact that one was the true mother and the other was not.
Church squabbles are not battles between angels and devils. Angels look on with horror while devils, I’m convinced, look on with glee. But the participants in church squabbles are believers… and regardless of who is give the child… believers are still only sinners saved by grace… subject to weakness and sometimes sinful.
So it was in Solomon’s day. The issue was not one of harlotry. The issue was not even who was right and who was wrong.
The issue was, “Who loves the baby more than herself… who is the true mother?”
I can hear someone say, “If I could be sure that they would give me the baby, I would say, ‘Let my adversary have the child.’” Ah, but that would take away the whole lesson this story teaches us. The true mother had no way of knowing that the baby would be given back to her. In her heart she had made the supreme sacrifice. She had done what God did when He gave His only begotten Son that we might have life. As far as the true mother was concerned, the baby was no longer hers. She had given him to another in order that his life might be spared. What love!
Oh, that God would give us true mothers who love enough to deny themselves. Oh, that God would deliver us from false mothers who are more concerned about proving who is right and who is wrong than they are about saving the life of the church.
All of us have prayed and travailed to bring forth a church. Years of sweat and toil have brought a beautiful child into being. But our disagreements have brought a sword over the child that threatens to destroy it. Our actions have caused some of our children to be over-laid… and they have already left us. Are we now going to destroy the living because we cannot agree over the dead? Are we going to allow that which is living to be divided because we, as parents, cannot agree? Is it more important to us to be right than it is that our children should live?
At this point I want to inject a new thought for our consideration.
We hear much about the wisdom of Solomon. First Kings 3:28 says that "all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment."
But note what Matthew 12:42 says, "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here."
"A greater than Solomon is here." Significant words! If Solomon's solution was wise and good, the solution of Christ in controversy must be even better.
"A greater than Solomon is here!"
Solomon saw two answers to the problem. The first was to find the true mother ... leaving the mother whose baby had died without comfort or solace ... or to divide the child ... giving an equal, but dead, part to each. The first was certainly better than the second, and was a "just" solution. But a greater than Solomon is here.
He adds a third alternative that Solomon never considered.
It is the possibility of "sharing" rather than "dividing." It is the spirit of doing good to our enemies ... of going the second mile ... of returning good for evil... of overcoming evil with good.
The alternative was unheard of in Solomon's day. Then it was an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But a greater than Solomon is here. He tells us to love our enemies ... to do good to those who despitefully use us.
Solomon was wise and just. He judged good judgment. But it was a judgment of the law ... not of love. The "Greater than Solomon" adds the dimension of love to controversy ... telling us through the apostle Paul to feed our enemies and to give them drink ... "for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head, " ... to not be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good! (Romans 12:20,21).
Again, in 1 Corinthians 6:7,8, speaking of disputes between brethren, Paul says, "Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong. Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded. Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren!"
When we are guided by the grace of the "Greater than Solomon" ... "sharing" rather than "dividing" becomes the solution.
You see, as I have said, both women were harlots. Both were sinners. Both loved their own child. Imagine, if you will, the agony of the mother who over-laid her child. What desperation she must have felt! How she longed to hold a living baby in her bosom! But her child was dead. So what did she do. She resorted to cunning ... to stealing ... to lying ... to deceiving. And why. Because she wanted a child ... a living child!
And what did Solomon's solution accomplish. Did it ease the pain of a bereaved mother. Did it placate the passion of mother instinct. Did it put a living child in the arms of a desperate woman. No. It did none of these. Solomon's decision was right. It was wise. It was just. It was legal. But while it brought great joy to the true mother, it did nothing to alleviate the pain of a broken-hearted mother whose child had died. But a greater than Solomon is here!
Jesus offers a way whereby all can be fulfilled and happy. It is the way of forgiveness.
It is the way of love. Had the "Greater than Solomon" been there, I'm sure He would have addressed the mother of the living child. He would have said, "You are the true mother. You have great love for your child. You can understand the pain your companion is experiencing. You know the grief she is going through. You know what drove her to her desperate act. Now, forgive her. Take her in your arms and comfort her. Let her share your child. Let her work with you to raise it. Let your child feel her love ... and let her feel your love. She needs you. Give her what she needs. If you will refuse to share ... you will have your child ... but your joy will be an empty joy because, while your arms are full, you will be haunted by the fact that your companion's arms are empty."
There are two ways to approach church controversy. There is Solomon's way, and there is the "Greater than Solomon" way.
Again and again, I have watched as churches choose Solomon's way. The Solomon way is right and just. It establishes the identity of the true mother. But it is an agonizing way. It brings anguish to the true mother who, against the cry of her heart, lets another take her child. And, when the child is restored to the true mother, it leaves a bereaved and desperate mother with empty arms and bitter thoughts.
Why do we emulate and extol Solomon when a greater than Solomon is here. Why do we insist on our rights when our rights leave a brother or a sister bitter and broken-hearted.
Jesus' way is a forgiving way.
Jesus' way is a loving way.
Jesus' way is a self-denying way.
Jesus' way will save the life of the baby, will restore the child to its true mother, and will bring healing and happiness to the bereaved mother who was driven to desperation because she over-laid her child.
"A Greater than Solomon is here!"