If you know anything about the story of Solomon, perhaps his virtue and his vice are first to come to mind: wisdom and wives. Or maybe you think of his wealth, how he built an incredible temple for the Lord…and a mansion for himself. But I would also guess that for many, the story of him ordering a baby to be cut in half is among the first things to come to mind when you think of this king of Israel.
If you don’t know this story, chill out – he doesn’t actually do it. Go read 1 Kings 3:16-28 real quick. This was a clever test to reveal truth: who was the baby’s real mother?
This story came up as I was watching a BibleProject video the other day on YouTube. I am a big fan of their resources, so if you haven’t checked out their work before, I hope you will. One of my favorite series they have done is about God’s character, as God himself describes it in the most quoted verse in the Old Testament. This description first appears in Exodus 34:6, when God says that he is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”
The video I was watching is about the first descriptor God gives of his character: compassionate. In the video, Carissa Quinn discusses this story of Solomon’s “wise ruling” because in it we find the same word root that God uses to describe his compassionate character (rakhum) in the noun form of compassion (rakhamim).
In the Solomon story, two women are saying that a baby is theirs. Tragically, one of the women’s babies has died, and now she is trying to claim the other woman’s child as her own. Solomon orders that the child be cut in half and split between the two women. Of course, the real mother is “deeply moved out of love for her son,” and relents, choosing to give up her baby rather than him die. This moment of being “deeply moved” uses the Hebrew word rakhamim, meaning she is filled with compassion for her baby. In this way, Solomon finds the truth, or, as Carissa Quinn says it in the video, “It is her compassion that reveals that she is the true mother.”
She goes on to explain in the video that, interestingly, this word compassion (rakhamim) is connected to the Hebrew word for womb (rekhem). This tells us that, in Hebrew thought, one’s compassion comes from one’s womb, one’s deep insides, or what we today might call your “gut.” When God describes himself as rakhum, compassionate, we should conjure up the sense that God’s compassion for us comes from his deepest insides, that he cares for us as a mother cares for a baby from her womb.
This is no compassion moved by mere pity or sympathy. God’s compassion for his people is far more authentic and innate than that. His compassion is from his core, from the safest, most tender and closely held part of who he is. To be held within God’s compassion is to be as a baby snuggled safely in her mother’s womb: securely protected with all your needs perfectly provided.
I know the feelings I had toward my baby when he was in my womb, and to know I have a God who considers me in such a way is, well, deeply moving. And like her compassion, her womb-like care, led the true mother to ask Solomon to give her baby to the other woman, God’s compassion for us led him to send Jesus on a mission to save us, rather than let us die, hopeless in our sin.
In Isaiah 49:15, God uses this same language when he says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion [rakham] on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” This womb-like compassion for his people is integral to God’s nature, a nature that we share because we are made in his image. Sometimes, our sin tarnishes that nature, making us behave without compassion or care for others. I know I’ve been there…still am there some days. But through the renewal that comes through Christ to our lives, we can live with womb-like compassion for our people today, too.
Colossians 3:9-10 reminds that you have “taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Meaning, this “new self” we have in Christ is completely based on the image of God, the way we were meant to be and live. God’s compassion, his rakhamim, is part of our “new wardrobe,” as the Message version likens this new self to, and sis, it looks good on you.
In the wake of Mother’s Day, I challenge you this week to care like a mother – to live with rakhamim, womb-like compassion for your sisters in Christ. I want you to think this week, if I had the heart of a mother toward one of my sisters this week, a heart filled with the compassion of a mother for the baby in her tummy, what would that look like?
Maybe it would be you sharing your lunch break with that coworker and, instead of scrolling the whole time, asking some real questions that require real answers that are met by real eye contact and connection.
Maybe it would be you answering the phone when that friend calls instead of letting it go to voicemail because you’re busy and a conversation takes time and focus that feels in short supply right now.
I get it, sometimes it just feels easier to zone out or send it to voicemail, right? I am totally guilty of this, so no judgment! BUT…if that was your teenager wanting to have a talk or your baby calling your name from the other room, would you answer? Yeah, you would, because your compassion for your kids is really, really deep.
And we can’t do this for everyone in our lives, of course, but I wonder, could you do it for one? Maybe you wait for the one to call and you decide that this time, you’re going to answer. Or maybe you already know the one and you know you need to have that conversation. Trust your gut here. It’s your mother-heart hard at work, telling you how to use your God-given, womb-like compassion for those in your life who need your care.
So who is it for you, friend? Who can you remind this week that, even if everyone else could forget, you won’t forget her? I hope this week you’ll take a moment to care like a mother for that sister in your life who needs you, because whether you are a biological mom or not, it’s your compassion that will reveal that you are a true mother-heart.
Love ya, friend.
Your Sister, Kimber
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