Read 1 Kings 11:29-32, 12:19, Ps. 81:10-15, Mark 7:31-37

“See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes.” (1 Kings 11:31)

Sheikh Rashid, the founder of Dubai, is often quoted as saying: “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I ride a Mercedes, my son rides a Land Rover, and my grandson is going to ride a Land Rover… but my great-grandson is going to have to ride a camel again.” When asked to explain this parable, he said: “Hard times create strong men; strong men create easy times. Easy times create weak men; weak men create difficult times.” These words, to a large extent, capture the story of David, Solomon and Jeroboam.

David was a product of hard times. As a shepherd boy, he battled wild animals to save his flock. He fought Goliath to save Israel from disgrace, and he fought several wars through his reign. David (nicknamed ‘man of blood’) represents the strong man who creates easy times. Solomon was born into ease. Unfortunately, he became a weak leader who worshipped other gods instead of converting his foreign wives. Solomon’s excesses created difficult times; the Israelites felt the Davidic family had become overbearing. Rebellion became the order of the day.

Amidst all the confusion and tension, God sent Prophet Ahijah to symbolically hand over ten tribes of Israel to Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam. What lessons do we learn from this story?

1. God Can Raise Stones to Replace Us: God ordered Samuel to anoint the little boy, David, to teach Saul a lesson in humility. History repeated itself when God bestowed a larger portion of Israel to Jeroboam. Consider your gifts, talents and opportunities as privileges given by God. Ensure you bear the right fruits; otherwise, your gifts may go to others. John the Baptist warned: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise children to Abraham.” (Luke 3:8).

2. The Key to Greatness is Serving Others Diligently: As much as God wanted to punish Solomon, there was something special about Jeroboam that caught God’s attention, just as David possessed certain qualities that impressed God. In 1 Kings 11:28, we read: “The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he gave him charge over all the forced labour of the house of Joseph.” Do you desire to be great? Stop seeing work as a punishment. Whatever task you are given, do it wholeheartedly. Even if human beings do not praise you for it, God sees and will reward you. Remember what Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:26-27)

3. Be Concerned About Others: As a master of labour, Jeroboam developed the skill of listening to the people; this way, he won their hearts. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, took over as king, Jeroboam returned from exile in Egypt and led the delegation to plead for better treatment of the workers. Rehoboam (a young and inexperienced leader) threatened to impose tougher treatment. This straw broke the camel’s back; ten tribes of Israel rallied around Jeroboam and made him king. In Jeroboam, we see one who combines industriousness, politics and divine grace. He was a “leader without the title.” He won the favour of human beings and God. There was no way that office would escape him.

4. Ephrata - Be Opened: In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus heals a man who cannot hear or speak. It was a pathetic situation. The people around begged Jesus on his behalf. Interestingly, Jesus took this man to a private corner just as He had sent everyone out of Jarius’s home before healing his daughter. Like this man, many Christians today are flowing with the crowd in the name of modernity; we have become spiritually deaf (we don’t listen to God’s words) and dumb (we do not proclaim the good news). We must leave the crowd and create private time with Jesus daily for divine healing.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, open our ears and mouths to serve you better today and always. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Friday of week 5 in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Kings 11:29-32, 12:19, Ps. 81:10-15, Mark 7:31-37).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu