Psalm 1 presents the reader with two, mutually exclusive categories of human existence: righteousness and wickedness. However, experience tells us that to be human is far more complex. Rather than simply embracing the psalm’s presentation of life, we might enter a dialogue instead, one wherein we consider what it might mean to be formed by attending to others rather than reifying our existing in-groups.
Wisdom is available to the entirety of creation, regardless of gender, class, race, or any boundary established by humanity.
King Solomon’s desire for wisdom to equip him for just rule establishes him as the paradigm of the Wisdom tradition and as an example for us to follow. The scriptural emphasis upon wisdom in rule may contrast strongly with contemporary emphases upon technique.
In taking of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve attempt to gain rule before they are ready to exercise it. Their example may be a cautionary one for a church that too precipitously throws itself into the political arena.
Psalm 14:1, though popularly employed to dismiss non-theists as foolish, is principally targeted against practical atheism, against those who believe that justice is without force in the universe and that all that matters is power.
In the radical changeability and uncertainty of our world, the collapse of our political projects and the apparent futility of our labors can tempt us to despair. Ecclesiastes grapples with these difficulties and presents ways in which to maintain hope within the vapor of our lives.
Proverbs presents a vision of political wisdom that calls for deep moral integrity of political actors, both in their most public and in their most private behavior. It offers an alternative to the cynical demoralization of contemporary entertainment-driven politics, with its celebration of permission and transgression.
Wisdom’s publicly raised voice challenges the simple ones, who love being simple; the scoffers, who delight in their scoffing; and the fools, who hate knowledge. The reproof of Wisdom is especially relevant in the contemporary political world, where so many of our leaders and politicians thrive upon such popular attitudes.
In the sphere of political decision-making, ‘the grace of doing nothing’ is usually a losing proposition. However, the parable of the wheat and the weeds invites even the angriest reactionary to consider the complexity of wheat and weeds, good and bad, us and them, and the dangers involved in precipitous action.
This week’s lection is a well-loved, much-cited chestnut from which a thousand moralistic sermons have germinated. And with good reason. Solomon becomes king and when given the chance to have any wish fulfilled by God, chooses wisdom over the usual favorites, long life, wealth and power.
As even a cursory glance at this weeks lectionary reference will reveal, however, there are a couple of gaps in the text. The first is what happens just before Solomon dies, as he gets last minute instructions from David about scores that the family needs settling. The second is between the time that Solomon ascends to the throne, and the time Solomon and Yahweh have their little heart-to-heart. When you read that part that the lectionary omits, what you find is not Solomon sitting around having his daily quiet time in prayer and study of the scripture, but rather in the ruthless pursuit of control and the exercise of the royal prerogative of vengeance against the enemies of the monarchy…