3 Judgment

<< 1 Kings 3:26, 27 : The Judgment of Solomon >>

“Then spake the woman whose the living child was, unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord give her the living child and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine or thine, but divide it. “Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.”–I KINGS iii. 26, 27.

The discernment for which Solomon prayed, and which in his dream the Lord promised should be granted to him, was soon manifest to Israel. The sagacity he displayed in finding out the real mother in the curious case submitted to his judgment produced reverence for him through the land, and a conviction that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.

It seemed indeed to be a matter not easy to determine. Here were two unknown women, who in one house and on the day after the other, had children. They were alone, and the second mother overlaid her child, and awoke to find it dead. The circumstances imply that she was a careless woman, with none of the mother’s intensely tender feeling, but still for some reason she would rather have a living child than a dead one. She saw the other woman peacefully sleeping; -her child, three days old, peacefully sleeping also. She crept stealthily with her dead babe, and took the living one from its sleeping mother, leaving her own lifeless infant with the unconscious woman, who probably in her dreams was picturing the happy future of her child.

The bereaved mother awoke, and in her love for her child, her first thought was to supply its want. She placed it to her breast but found no effort. It was still and breathless, and the conviction came that her child was dead. But, still fondling about and mourning over it, the. morning came, and with the light she saw this little lifeless one was not her son. Though only three days old her love had marked the lineaments of her babe upon her heart. She could not be mistaken, She had photographed with loving gaze each little feature on her warm affections, had touched with exquisite tenderness its little fingers, each little limb, and though the other shameless creature unfeelingly persisted in her wrong, yet the mother cried for justice and would not be appeased. So the case was brought before the youthful monarch. The young Solomon heard their story, listened to their assertions and denials. It was a perplexing case as there were no witnesses, and both women belonged to a class not always credited with possessing a reverence for truth.

It occurred to the king that the true mother would have far more love for the infant than the pretended one, and therefore if the child seemed to be in danger, the real mother would do anything to save it. The pretended mother who had readily parted with her own dead babe would most likely be indifferent to the well-being of that which was not hers. The king feigned perplexity, and seeming to be puzzled ordered the child to be divided and half to be given to one woman, and half to the other.

The plan succeeded. The woman who had been so cool over her own smothered child, showed very little agitation about the other. The real mother would suffer anything in her own feelings to save her child. They might give it even to her rival, but they must not hurt it. The king saw where the genuine mother’s love was, and decreed accordingly. All who heard of it applauded the judicious decision, and were grateful to God who had given them, as successor to the warlike David, a prince at once sagacious and just: a monarch who would be a father in the land.

In its literal sense, this narrative is extremely interesting. It illustrates the simplicity at that time of Eastern manners. The king appears accessible to all. It was usual for the monarch to dispense justice at the gate of his palace, or the gate of the city, to all requiring it, and probably some such place was the scene of the transaction recorded. There were no pleaders, no cross-examiners, no law’s delay, or long uncertainty, often so cruel in modern times, but the case was heard in the simplest manner, the matter at once decided upon, judgment declared, and justice done.

But, let us turn now to consider the deeper wisdom of the divine narrative before us; for-although the incident occurred as related in the early part of the reign of Solomon, it forms part of the Word of God to afford us, in addition to the moral lessons of the letter, wider, and deeper lessons for the Church and for the soul.

Solomon in his glorious and peaceful reign was the type of the Lord Jesus reigning in His kingdom, and judging in His Church.

The womanly character is represented to us in Scripture as the type of the Lord’s Church, which is called His bride and wife.

The church is intended to be as warm, as true, as confiding and truthful in her affections towards the Lord as a loving, true, and faithful wife is to her husband. Hence we read such passages as the following. Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name: and thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall He be called. (Isa. liv. 5). Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you; and I will take you one of a city and two of a family; and I will bring you to Zion. (Jer. iii. 14). In the New Testament the Lord Jesus, because He was the manifested God, is represented as the Bridegroom, John the Baptist said of Him in this respect I am not the Christ but am sent before Him. He that hath the bride is the Bridegroom: but the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all. (John iii. 29,31). The apostle said I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2. Cor. xi. 2.).

The Church is continually represented in Scripture as a virgin, a bride, and a wife. Hence, we read such passages as the following: Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear: forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house, so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty: for He is thy Lord and worship thou Him (Psa. xiv. 10, 11). Turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? For the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall encompass a man (Jer. xxxi.: 21, 22). The Church, as in future it would be an interior one among the Gentles, is described when it is said, Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear: break forth into singing thou that didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife; saith the Lord (Isa. liv 1). Again the prophet says, “For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Isa, lxii. 5).

These and similar allusions and declarations evince most clearly that the Church is represented in Scripture by a virgin, a woman, and a wife, and it is not difficult to perceive the reason. The leading characteristic of the womanly nature is affection, and it is affection to the Lord and our neighbour which is the chief essential of the Church. Not cold knowledge or hard faith, but warm love unites a man to the Lord, and makes him a portion of the Lord’s Church. The whole Church should cleave to the Lord Jesus as a wife clings to her husband. The Church should fix her heart upon the Lord Jesus alone, as a pure wife has one husband only. The Church should confide in the protection of the Lord Jesus as a trusting wife rests confidently in the care and strength of her husband.

The women before us were not wives, although they were mothers. They represent, therefore, a Church which has not been faithful to the Lord. When a Church has turned from the truth, and sunk into error and traditions, instead of abiding by the Divine Word and obeying it, then from a wife it becomes a harlot, or rather two harlots in one house, as represented in the narrative before us. The most awful picture of this state of things is portrayed in the Book of Revelations, where the perverted Christian Church is described as a great harlot, a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations, and filthiness of her fornications, and upon her forehead having a name written, “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth” (Rev. xvii, 4, 5). It is a sad and solemn symbol for reflection this perverted Church; a harlot, and a mother of harlots, with mystery for a God, instead of the God of Love.

The two harlots in one house represent a Church no longer in close communion with the Lord, but having adopted false views, and being governed by pernicious principles, making the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions. In such a Church, however, all are not alike. There are those who cherish false doctrines from ignorance, from circumstances and an erroneous education. These would accept the truth if it were suitably introduced to them. They do conscientiously what good they know. They are often pious, humble and tender: they live a good life so far as they understand it. These are represented by the woman with the first child. The new birth with them is solid, sincere, and good, and they cherish the new character they attain, supplying to themselves the sincere milk of the Word. These continue in an earnest and sincere state, doing good as they best can. They fear God, and work righteousness, and their child lives.

In the same house, however, or the same Church, there are those who love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. On the third day, or at the end of the Church, this woman has a child, or puts on a religious character; but this child dies in the night, or in other words, when trial and dimness come, their zeal dies away, and what little profession of goodness there was perishes. The one party, the inwardly good, are better than their doctrine by far. Although they are taught to say that a good life has nothing to do with heaven, that a man is saved by faith only, if exercised at last, and however vile a life he may have led, yet they are as careful to regulate both heart and life, that both may be well-pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as if all depended on themselves.

The others, represented by the other woman, do really not care about a heavenly life. They are self-seeking and evil, governed only by a regard for appearances, when they seem to be moral and religious.

There are times, however, when the. truth is brought home to them. Thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead. Their pretended good life, they then see has no life in it. Their faith alone is seen to be a dead faith. But some excuse must be made, some defence must be put forth, and they seize their neighbour’s child, or, in other words, they attribute to their Church, their doctrines, their faith, and themselves, what love, has brought forth in the humble minded doers of good.

It is very common for persons of this class to declare that although their only faith that Christ died for them is saving, yet that this faith is so full of godliness, that it necessarily produces good works.

They know that myriads hold this faith, and do not produce good works; nay, the vast bulk of people in Christian countries believe that Christ died for them, but they do not heartily believe that they ought to live for Him. They are ready enough to believe that Christ has suffered and done every thing for them, and the more they smell out this side of what they declare the blessed one has done for them, the less room is there for self-denial and subduing of evils which they love. But they know that the Word everywhere enjoins a good life,and commands incessantly good works to be done. They have invented therefore this theory of the necessary results of their faith, and to confirm it they point to those loving humble souls who love the Lord. and love to do His will. See what good works they do, they say, what hospitals they support, what Sunday schools they carry on, what works of mercy they perform, All this is the result of our faith.

But this is only stealing their neighbour’s living child and passing it off as their own. It is true that thousands of excellent Christians do good works and live really Christian lives, although in the doctrinal declarations they have been taught to say, faith only is saving. These persons are better than their creed. They do in their hearts believe that they must shun sin and do good, or they cannot be saved. They do indeed believe that the Lord Jesus died for them, and did and does all that the Divine Love prompts to be done for their salvation, but they believe also that He gives His Word to tell them what they have to do, and they love to obey it.

They hear him saying, if ye will enter into life keep the commandments. Blessed are they that do His commandments. While they from His Love, His Life and His death for them are filled with love to Him, from His precepts they regulate their daily lives. They cease to do evil, and learn to do well. They work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and when they feel a difficulty in doing His Will, they look up and remember all He has done for them.

These are they who, whatever their doctrines are, become truly born again. They become as to their characters, newborn babes and the babes are truly alive. They are “babes’ in Christ,”for everyone that useth milk is unskilful in the Word of righteousness : for he is a babe (Heb. v. 13). “Yet, as new-born babes, they desire the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby” (I Pet. ii. 2).

These babes are full of new life, and will live. They yearn to do good, and to be good, not from a sense of merit, but from love. They love the Lord, they love His Word, they love His kingdom. They live from heavenly motives, and they live for heaven.

The Word is their delight and their joy, and as they read, it is as if a voice, ever accompanied them saying, If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do thern, They hear their doctrinal expounders often declare that good works have nothing to do with their salvation, and evil works will not condemn one whose faith at the last hour is right, but they pay little attention to them. They pray that they may please the Lord. They do what they believe will be well-pleasing in His sight. They obey His Word, and when evils present themselves in their hearts, tempers, or lives, they carefully struggle. against them. Thus they live Christian lives, and the Lord, blesses thern. Their faith is seen in their works. Their lives adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour. These are they who have the child for three days, and who rise to give it suck in the morning. The discovery that the child placed in the bosom of the mother of the living one is dead represents that those in an erroneous church who really love virtue and heavenly-mindedness, when truth discovers to them that the religion they profess has no relation to life are shocked, and protest against it. They believe in their private way but very really that all they do should spring from religion. There should be, they believe in their hearts, religion in trade, religion in temper, religion in everything. They will not have the dead child, they want their own living child, and however often they may be told that religion is a thing of belief and worship only, and has nothing to do with works or life in the world, they will not believe it. They treat as a delusion the pretence that a person should strive to get faith that he may be saved; but not strive to overcome selfishness, pride, peevishness, over-reaching and every known evil on- peril of continuing in his sins, and being incapable of entering heaven.

They bring the matter before Solomon. They appeal to the Lord Jesus Christ. The sword which Solomon commanded to be brought is the symbol of the Word. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any, two-edged sword…….and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb, iv, 12.)

The Lord Jesus tests the real love of anyone for a good life, by pressing upon them the possibility of a religion in life being altogether destroyed. Those who are inwardly evil are not shocked at that. Their life in the world is a thing, they suppose, which they can conduct on selfish principles, it has nothing to do with religion. Let it be neither mine nor thine but divide it. They would be quite content to fight the fierce battle of life, while life is a scramble for wealth and distinction, if religion will only provide for their getting to heaven at last. Let living virtue be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Let those who care for worship have worship; it is very decent and proper, but let them not suppose it is essential to any spiritual growth or regeneration which is to fit them for heaven; Christ kept the law for us, and it is not really necessary for us to keep it, and we cannot. Let those who feel inclined to lead a moral life also, it is quite right; but there is no spiritual life in that, as it is only the other half of a dead child, it has nothing to do with salvation. If you think it has, you are quite in the wrong way, you are taking from the glory of Christ. Such is the way of thinking expressed in a great variety of ways by those who have divided faith from love and life, but yet are anxious to add to all the gains they desire to amass on earth, all the bliss of heaven, without the labour of real self-denial.

But what says the real mother of the child, that is, those who really desire the life of heaven upon earth. These long to see a better world: they long to become good. If, as they are told, the prevalence of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone more widely, will induce a truly good life from gratitude, they are willing it should in this, but a heavenly life, a heavenly world, they are convinced, there ought to be. Give her the child, they say, but don’t destroy it. O for a better world. O for a closer walk with God. O for a state in which every feeling, every thought, every act, and every word might be pervaded by the spirit of heaven. Let it be by this doctrine or by that, by circumcision or uncircumcision, by ritual or anti-ritual, but let us see faith working by love, a religion of glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.

Now, Solomon speaks, the Lord Jesus gives His decision. The woman who desires a living child, is the mother thereof. Give her the child. The Lord in His judgment judges the works of men, and the faith of anyone, only so far as it is seen in work. The Lord sees the heart, and tries the works of every one, by the motive there was in it. Only those who love what is good, and seek by truth to make their good purer and purer, only these can be the mother of the living child. Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven. Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say. Walk worthy of the vocation, wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering; forbearing one another, in love endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)