Dividing the Child
Robert Wurtz II
And the king said, The one says, “This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.'” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other. Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him” (1 Kings 3:23–26 NKJV).
Our passage is a familiar story of two harlots who each had a baby, but one accidentally laid on her child and smothered it. So she took the living baby and replaced it with the baby that passed. When the other mother awoke and found the lifeless baby, she knew what the guilty mother had done. Eventually, the matter made its way to the wise King Solomon, who discerned the truth by God’s imparted wisdom.
The situation is instructive on many levels; however, the aspect I wish to focus on in this entry is the willingness of a person to destroy something that doesn’t belong to them or one in which they had no real investment. Both women had a reputation for sinful living, and both had a child out of wedlock. Both women may have been reckless in handling their babies as one baby died and the other was stolen. It could be that they were just hard sleepers. I don’t point these things out to condemn the women; I’m only suggesting that the women, to this point, are quite similar.
Astorgos (the Absence of Familial Love)
Solomon revealed the difference between the women by wisely discerning which woman was moving in familial love for the living child. This is a vital truth. Understand that one woman carried the surviving baby for nine months, the other did not, and it showed in their attitudes towards the child. How could a real mother elect to cut her own child in half? She held the child close and nurtured and protected it as God instilled such affection in females, generally. The other did not and agreed to cut it into two pieces. Simply put, the one loved with familial love, and the other didn’t. It’s stunning and instructive to observe how division, destruction, and murder somehow become optional in the absence of love.
Consider also the story of David and Bathsheeba. Nathan came to him and told a story of a rich man killing a poor man’s little ewe lamb for food when he had scores of livestock to pull from. David’s estimate of the rich man was that he had no pity and deserved to die. Why? Because David knew what it was to invest love and affection in something and then have some reckless animal (or person) try to take its life. His pastoral (shepherd’s) instinct was similar to a motherly instinct.
Mothers and Pastors
Paul followed a similar line when he wrote to the Thessalonians:
“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so, we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:4–8 NKJV).
In 1988, a 30-year old Armenian woman was buried alive in an earthquake along with her 3-year-old child. Health officials reported that during the eight days the two were entombed, the mother kept the child alive by repeatedly puncturing her fingers and allowing the child to suck her blood as its only source of nourishment. She looked past all the reasons she shouldn’t resort to such a morbid means because she was focused solely on saving the child’s life. It was a far cry from the harlot’s attitude who agreed to cut the child in two or the rich man who butchered the poor man’s ewe lamb.
In modern times, we need pastors and Christians who have Paul’s attitude rather than the careless prostitute or the pitiless rich man. We need people who are willing to step in and join the labors of other ministers to save souls at all costs — even if it’s not “their ministry” (so to speak). Sadly, there are far too many today who use flattering words, a cloak of covetousness, and seek the glory of men. They don’t lead, feed, and protect as Jacob did when he engaged his brother Esau and “lead the flock on softly” (Genesis 33:14). The reckless and loveless pastor will drive the sheep and destroy them, furthering their ambition, agenda, and cause.
My prayer is that the Lord will give us a generation of pastors and leaders who can testify along with Paul, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”