Sermons

Summary: A look at the Prostitutes who came to Solomon to decide the fate of their child

She was just a hooker, a lady of the night. And normally we wouldn’t even consider her to be in the running for “Mother of the Year” but then again, it’s not wife of the year we are looking at, it’s mother of the year and the two aren’t always the same. Maybe you know the story, maybe you don’t. We don’t know a whole lot about her, we know that she was a prostitute; we know that she lived with at least one other prostitute, we know that she was a new mom and we know that she had a major problem.

It seems that both the heroine of our story and her roommate gave birth at the same time, which was probably an occupational hazard of their particular profession. And they both had sons, one morning shortly after the boys were born it was discovered that one of the children had died in the night. The cause given was that the mother had rolled over and smothered him. It’s here that the story gets a little confusing. The mother with the dead child claimed that it wasn’t her son, that her colleague had switched the boys in the night after the accident. The other mother protested her innocence and maintained that she had done nothing wrong and that the children had never been swapped.

One of these women was lying; both could not be telling the truth. People do that you know, they lie. Honest. I’ve been in the ministry for a hundred years, well maybe not quite a hundred years but over twenty years, and I’ve seen people lie. I have sat down with couples in marriage counselling and she has said black and he has said white, and to look at them you swear they were both telling the truth, and yet they couldn’t be. I’ve heard her say “He does this vile thing” and him say “no I don’t never have.” And I just shake my head. They sound like a couple of kids, “Did too” “Did Not” , Did too” “Did Not”, “Did too”. It’s amazing sometimes that any children actually survive to adulthood. It’s like I tell my children, “Kids you know where liars go?” and they know they answer now and they both respond, “Yes, Ottawa.”

And so we have a problem, who is telling the truth and who is lying? The story is found in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings, David has died and Solomon his son has become king of Israel. Ruth is going to come to read the story for us, and I’m going to ask that you stand for the reading of God’s word. 1Kings 3:16-28

To put this story into context we need that understand that shortly after Solomon had become king, he went to a place called Gibeon to offer a sacrifice to God and while he was there he had a dream where God appeared to him and offered him anything he wanted. Anything. Suppose God appeared to you and made you the same offer. “Say Bob, you can have anything you want, you name it and it’s yours.” What would you request? A better job, a bigger house, a nicer car? More money, a happier marriage, There are probably a dozen good request that you could make, all valid choices. But listen to how Solomon responds in 1 Kings 3:9 Please make me wise and teach me the difference between right and wrong. Then I will know how to rule your people. If you don’t, there is no way I could rule this great nation of yours. Of all the things he could have asked for he asks for wisdom. Maybe he didn’t need to ask for wisdom, maybe he was already wise because listen to how God answers his prayer, 1 Kings 3:12-13 So I’ll make you wiser than anyone who has ever lived or ever will live.

I’ll also give you what you didn’t ask for. You’ll be rich and respected as long as you live, and you’ll be greater than any other king. You gotta love that.

And so Solomon goes back to Jerusalem and throws a feast for his entire court. It’s not long after that the two prostitutes show up with this compelling problem. This is to be the first test of Solomon’s wisdom. During my preparation for this message I came across an interesting little tidbit that was part of an assignment at the Harvard School of Law. It actually uses this story as a case study, this is what it says. It looks as if Solomon were deciding who was the real mother. But the evidence, namely the differing responses of the two women to the prospect of the child being killed, seems quite ambiguous when judged in terms of its probative value on the question of which woman is the real mother. One can easily imagine further facts about the two women and the child that would affect our view of the significance of their responses. Suppose there was evidence that one of the women was a brutal child-hater who already had more children than she wanted, while the other was a person who opposed all forms of killing and who had been trying for years to bear a child. Would this evidence be relevant? How would it cut? A brutal child-hater who already had more children than she wanted might prefer to have the king kill the baby rather than see it go to her hated, lying neighbour. Perhaps the neighbour was indeed a saintly person who had wanted a child for years and, when she found her baby dead, had pulled a switch but then repented when she saw that the king was about to kill the baby. Is it possible that Solomon concluded that he could not decide who the natural mother was and therefore based his decision on a quite different ground, namely, who would be the better mother? Well maybe but the scripture that Ruth read this morning said that it was the woman who really was the mother who jumped in and saved the life of the infant.

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