Yesterday’s reflection began: What lies in the heart of men? If we would rely on the introduction from the popular radio series the Shadow, our answer would be – “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” In a way the history of the reign of King Solomon is a story that connects to that ominous question.
Our first readings for a while now have been from 1 Kings. As we had heard in 2 Samuel the story of King David, our foray into the Book of 1 Kings continues the narrative of the Kings of Judah and Israel, the one charged with ensuring the people of the nation were faithful to the covenant of God. The narrative begins with the transition of kingship from David to Solomon, a story of ambition, betrayal, assassination, but eventually Solomon ascends the throne. Here is a synopsis of the this week’s first readings:
- Monday – brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple (1 Kings 8)
- Tuesday – in the Temple praying for the people Israel to be faithful to God and enjoy his protection (1 Kings 8)
- Wednesday – the Queen of Sheba visits and “In his enduring love for Israel, the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice” (1 Kings 10:9)
- In today’s first reading there is a starkly different picture: “When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods.” (1 Kings 11:4)
The long arc of Solomon’s reign had become an echo of yesterday’s gospel: “From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:20-22)
The wisdom and right judgment Solomon had asked of the Lord – and had been given – were lost in the choices Solomon made. The King was no longer the one leading people to the Covenant, his life and his decision were leading him astray. And so the Lord replied: “Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom”
As one turns the pages of the Book of Kings, we see the slow devolution of the people of God under the leadership of Solomon. Rebellions are continuous, eventually leading to 10 of the tribes of Israel forming their own nation and picking a different king to lead them.
What happened to Solomon? But a better question for each of us is what is happening to us? How would one describe the long arc of our life? Our faith? Our commitments to our chosen vocation? In our younger days we perhaps asked God for gifts with which to navigate this life. Have we used the gifts wisely and with compassion? Have we sought mercy? If the Queen of Sheba was to visit us, would she find in us evidence of the love of God, wisdom and justice?
The story of Solomon is a reminder for us to regard the long arc of our lives and when and where needed, make course corrections, ask for mercy and grace, and begin again a life in the Covenant.