1 Kings 11:4-13
For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
Psalm 106:3-4, 35-37, 40
Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times.
Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you deliver them;
but they mingled with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage.
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
It is hard to read the first line of the reading from Kings. In these past weeks, we have read so much of the story between God and David. We have read about God’s raising up of David, the promises that he made to him. We have read about God establishing David’s throne and promising it to his children under one condition. Today, we read immediately that Solomon did not hold up that one condition. After a lifetime of walking in God’s ways, we hear of Solomon falling out of love with God and offering sacrifices to pagan idols. Solomon’s big sin was not being single-minded in his pursuit of God and holding up fake gods, idols, as his equal.
It sounds ridiculous to us in our modern age. In an age where most wonder if anything actually exists beyond this physical realm, it is hard to imagine what’s so difficult about not bowing down to a graven image in a temple. How is it that one with so much wisdom could not see the folly in this action? And yet, is he so different from any one of us? Do any of us find it easy to follow God single-mindedly?
To follow God single-mindedly means nothing equals God. It means our own estimations of what we should do and where we should go are now subject to his leaning. It means that our preference for God outranks our preference for our own comfort. It means that our love for God and for bringing other souls to him is greater than our love for our very lives, our reputations, our shallow senses of security. The more we look at it, and the more we examine our own hearts, the more we come to realize that single-mindedness for God is a taller order than it appears on the surface. Trusting God more than we trust ourselves is difficult.
The woman in the Gospel is a great example to us to counteract our sense of self-sufficiency. When she comes and bows before the Lord, she humbles herself before God. When she does not defend herself or try to justify herself before God, when she does not try to convince him why she deserves this healing, she exhibits an understanding of God that we should all strive to learn. By acknowledging that she is not one of the children of Israel and a mere dog begging for scraps, she shows that she understands that healing and reconciliation are not gifts we receive because of who we are or for how we have asked, but they are about who God is and how much love he has for his creation. In her posture of humility, she acknowledges that God is greater than all. This is the single-mindedness God requires of us.
When we put everything else out of our minds and acknowledge that God is great and nothing compares to him, we finally make room for God to act in our lives. When Solomon allowed his heart to be changed from God and to the idols of his wives, he wasted an opportunity for God to act. Instead of God acting through him and reconciling his foreign wives to God, his actions had the adverse affect. This change affected his whole kingdom because he cut himself off from God, and God cannot bless those who close the way to him. But the Syrophoenecian puts Jesus above all and acknowledges her lack of place before God. Because of this, God could act and heal those around her.
What are the ways that we close ourselves off to God? When are the times we lean entirely on ourselves and don’t trust God to lead us through our situation? What are the things we hold equal to God? Let us pray today for the grace to perceive these barriers. Let us pray for God to help us put these to death. Let us pray for total single-mindedness in following God and walking in his ways.
Prayer: O God, you are great and highly to be praised. There is no god, no idea, no comfort in my daily life that is greater than you. You created me and the entire world, and nothing can compare to your power. Help me to internalize this in a greater way today. Show me the things, no matter how small, that I allow to come between us. Help me to break down those barriers, so that nothing stands between you and me. Make me an ever more perfect instrument of your grace to minister to those around me. Help me teach them of your bountiful mercy and healing love. Amen.