The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15, 16 August 2015

I Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14

Ephesians 5:15-20
St. John 6:51-58

Background: Solomon
This king, the son of David was also known as Jedidiah, ruled from 970 to 931 BCE. He ruled the Untied Monarchy as its third king. That enterprise, however, broke apart upon his death, forming the southern Kingdom of Judah, and the northern Kingdom of Israel. His mother was Bathsheba, whose first son with David died earlier. He had several siblings. As king of the United Monarchy he had several rivals in the Levant, the Assyrian Empire to the northeast, the Kingdom of Aram, the Kingdom of Ammon, the Kingdom of Moab, the Kingdom of Edom, and the Philistine city-states to the west. He is credited with having built the first Temple in Jerusalem, and for being a wise man. Modern archaeologists suggest that the Empire of Solomon may not have been as grand as we have been led to believe. The “empire’s” location in the midst of the Levant would put it at the cross-roads of the Fertile Crescent, so its wealth may have been if not grandiose, something substantial. Evidence of his building activity has been found at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, although some scholars date them to a later period.

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask what I should give you." And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?"

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life."

Here we get a glimpse of what obtained in Jerusalem before the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem with the building of the temple. There are numerous mentions of “high places”, hilltops upon which sacrifices were made and worship was conducted. The theme of the Deuteronomist will be to move away from these practices (which smack of the worship of the Ba’alim and others) to what was considered the willed Temple that David was not allowed to build. The pericope begins with the statement, “Solomon loved the Lord.” It signals a change of attitude and theme. The militarism of David is past, and now we are going to meet a faithful king, who loves YHWH.

Solomon goes to Gibeon to sacrifice, as if to underscore the absence of a temple. One also wonders if there is a hint of the fusion of the offices of king and priest at this time. The text isn’t clear, but what we do have is the king as dreamer, and as one who prays. His prayer is a model for all leaders. He acknowledges the past, and his weakness as a military leader, and then asks for understanding and wisdom. There is no small epic magnification here, ‘no other king shall compare with you.” For the purposes of showing Solomon to be blest by God, the author sets him up as a peer of the truly great kings to the South (Egypt) and the North (Mesopotamia).

Breaking open I Kings
  1. How did David and Solomon differ?
  2. Why is Solomon’s prayer effective?
  3. Why does Solomon get to build the temple and David does not?

Psalm 111 Confitebor tibi

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, *
in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD! *
they are studied by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and splendor, *
and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered; *
the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

He gives food to those who fear him; *
he is ever mindful of his covenant.

He has shown his people the power of his works *
in giving them the lands of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; *
all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever, *
because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;
he commanded his covenant for ever; *
holy and awesome is his Name.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; *
those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
his praise endures for ever.

This psalm of praise is a short acrostic with each half verse of the initial two verses begun with a letter of the alphabet. In some sense it is a hymn either sung or proclaimed to ‘the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.’ What follows is a listing of God’s peculiar acts of kindness and grace to all the people, and not one particular act. These are not random acts, but rather acts done because, “(God) is ever mindful of (the) covenant,” and later, “(God) sent redemption to (the) people, (God) commanded (God’s) covenant for ever.” The author draws a broad scope of reference, noting the historic relationship of God and people in the covenant. The final verse comments on the source of Wisdom, not only a personification of God, but also the source of understanding.

Breaking open Psalm 111:
  1. Where have you known God’s mercy in your life?
  2. How have you shown that to others?
  3. How is wisdom the practice of sharing?


Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom has built her house,
she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
"You that are simple, turn in here!"
To those without sense she says,
"Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight."

Russian icon of Holy Wisdom

In the Track 1 Psalm we have hints as to Wisdom and her nature, but here we have a hymn sung to her honor.  There are also comments regarding the opposite of wisdom, namely folly. You may want to read the entire chapter to capture its whole meaning. The seven pillars are not symbolic of anything other than the perfection of the house. That meat is served at her table describes the extravagance of her feast. Her invitation is gracious, including the simple and foolish. To these she offers bread and wine. It is invitation to walk “in the way of insight.” This text has opportunities for Eucharistic allusion, and for comparison to Jesus as the Bread of Life in the Gospel. For Christians, Jesus is Holy Wisdom.

Breaking open Proverbs:
  1. What does the word “wisdom” mean to you?
  2. What does it mean in this reading?
  3. How is Jesus wisdom?

Psalm 34:9-14 Benedicam Dominum

Fear the LORD, you that are his saints, *
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *
but those who seek the LORD lack nothing that is good.

Come, children, and listen to me; *
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Who among you loves life *
and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?

Keep your tongue from evil-speaking *
and your lips from lying words.

Turn from evil and do good; *
seek peace and pursue it.

We seem to be having an on-going reading from Psalm 34. Its themes of hunger and want seem to offer comment to Jesus’ promise of bread. The psalmist considers hunger and want in the whole of creation. The pattern is this – the righteous are fed and protected, and the unrighteous are fed and punished.  What follows in the latter verses of the pericope are patently a wisdom psalm with common sense observations about daily life, and the pattern of life for the righteous.

Breaking open Psalm 34:
  1. What hungers do you have?
  2. What about those who live around you?
  3. How do you address their hungr?

Ephesians 5:15-20

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a continuation of the reading which one commentator calls “The Sons of Disobedience and the Children of Light”. There is a distinction between the wise and the unwise. The call here is similar to the call in the passage from Proverbs, “So do not be foolish,” which the author augments with examples: drunkenness, and debauchery. This is to be contrasted with the hymns of praise that the author commends to us.

Breaking open Ephesians:
  1. What parts of your life are wise?
  2. What parts are foolish?
  3. How do you live in the middle?

St. John 6:51-58

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."

We continue with John’s series on Jesus and the festivals of Judaism, here the Passover. Jesus’ invitation to, “eat my flesh and drink my blood,” flies in the face of the dietary taboos that governed the purity laws of Israel. Once again, Jesus makes the comparisons to the manna that was eaten in the wilderness, namely the bread that comes down from heaven. In the discourse we see the reluctance of the crowd to recognize Jesus as giving the gift of heaven, and Jesus sees only their unbelief. In the reading about Wisdom we realize that the giver and the gift are both the same, and here it is with Jesus as well. Into the intimate community of the Father and the Son, we are invited to participate as well – simply by taking into ourselves the bread of heaven.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What is your hunger in life?
  2. Have you ever struggled to provide for yourself or for your family?
  3. How did you provide? 
After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2015, Michael T. Hiller


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