By Betsy Mayer
“She stole my baby!”
“No, I didn’t! This is my baby!”
Suddenly Solomon’s throne room is filled with the screams and cries of two women—harlots. One clutches a wailing infant.
Sobbing, the woman without the infant throws herself at the king’s feet and relates a heartbreaking story.
“This woman and I share the same house, and each of us gave birth to a son within three days of one another. Last night as she slept, she lay on her child, and he died. Then while I slept, she exchanged our babies. Now she claims my baby is hers! O King, please hear and judge righteously!”
The woman with the crying infant clutches it closer. “He’s mine! You killed your baby!”
Solomon raises his hand for silence. After a thoughtful moment he commands, “Guards, bring a sword.”
A hush falls over the room as a sword is unsheathed and brought to the king.
“Now, divide this baby equally and give half to each mother.”
The onlookers gasp.
“No!” screams the childless woman, springing to her feet. “Let her have the child but spare his life!”
“Yes! Divide the baby so that he is neither mine nor hers,” the other woman responds.
“Put the sword away,” the king commands. “Now we know who the rightful mother is. Give the child to the one who wants him to live.”1
Why does this intriguing story still grip us 3,000 years later? No doubt it is partly because we are awed by Solomon’s uncommon wisdom and relieved for the rightful mother’s vindication.
But we are also horrified at the wrong mother’s reaction. Even in the Bible’s short narrative, her character unfolds in gruesome detail: first, stealing another woman’s live baby and substituting with her own dead baby; then, consenting to have a child killed to satisfy her jealous sorrow. Her reaction reveals not only who the real mother is, but the lengths to which envy will go.
Three millennia later, the main characters in this story represent the best and the worst of human nature—the mother who would lose all to give life, the mother who seeks strange comfort in ending an innocent life, and the king who devises an ingenious test to reveal the heart of a true mother.
They also represent characters from an ancient, deeper story from which every other great story is built. We want the rightful mother to be vindicated because we are wired by God with an innate sense of justice.
The story begins when the King of the universe commissions His divine Son to create a beautiful new world. He then crowns His creation with human beings made in the divine image. As male and female, they uniquely reflect God’s character. The Son entrusts them with the wellbeing of all living things and the unique gift of procreation.
All heaven rejoices in the creation of a new world and the addition of new members to God’s family.
But Lucifer, an angel who once stood nearest to God’s throne, wasn’t rejoicing. In his former position, Lucifer had fostered a strange jealousy as he witnessed God’s Son receiving honor and worship. Secretly, he began promoting himself as a better ruler than God, who, Lucifer claimed, was a self-serving tyrant. He promised sympathetic angels that if he were in charge, they could govern themselves.
Eventually, war between loyal and rebel angels broke out in heaven. With the security of heaven threatened, Lucifer and his followers were banished. Lucifer, the light bearer, had become Satan, God’s enemy.2
Now as Satan views the Son’s new creation, his jealousy rekindles. If he can’t rule heaven, he will turn God’s newest children, Adam and Eve, against Him and take over this new world. Masquerading as an enlightened serpent, he tricks Eve into believing his lies about God and His one test of loyalty: “Did God say you would die if you ate the fruit from this tree? That’s impossible because you are immortal! God is withholding secret wisdom from you because He knows that this fruit will make you wise like Him.”
Eve believes the lie and eats the forbidden fruit. Then she convinces Adam to join her. But their disobedience doesn’t make them wise; it separates them from their only source of life—the Lifegiver Himself.
Satan is unconcerned for their fate. They are expendable in his quest for power and only valuable to him as they join him in rebellion against God.
But the Lifegiver is not willing for Satan to destroy humanity in his pursuit of power. He will come as the promised Seed to bruise the head of Satan and destroy death and the devil forever.3
Satan watches down through the ages as God works to redeem His fallen world. But he is not idle!
He spreads lies about an angry deity who must be appeased with human sacrifices or who will burn sinners forever in hell. He promotes the lie that sinful humans cannot die, but live forever as eternal souls.
He sends fallen angels in the form of departed friends, loved ones, and ancient wise men with false doctrine and false hope about death and the afterlife. He goads humans into sin and then tells them that God will overlook their transgressions—or worse, that God is vengeful and petty, and they curse Him. He spreads ruin, famine, disease, and disaster. Then he claims that all who have died are his captives.
When it seems that humanity is nearly ruined, the promised Seed arrives as a helpless baby to contest the strongholds of Satan. Satan responds by murdering every baby boy in Bethlehem.
Later, as Jesus begins His ministry, He finds His battlefield in the bodies and souls of men, women, even children. Some of Satan’s victims live among tombs, mentally and physically abused and feared by society. Evil spirits have rendered others mute or deaf. They have even thrown children into the fire. Clearly, Satan would rather destroy humanity than yield an inch of his usurped dominion.
But when Jesus enters Satan’s kingdom, He rebukes demons and restores the bodies and minds of the possessed. The dead are raised. The degraded are cleansed and sanctified, fulfilling an ancient prophecy: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, …To proclaim liberty to the captives …to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18.
Because Satan is powerless to stop the divine influence of Christ’s ministry, he instigates the murder of his chief Rival. But Christ’s shameful death on the cross becomes the means used by heaven to open a way to reconcile sinners to God.
An all-out contest for the fate of this world is still being waged between the Lifegiver and the Lifetaker. By creation, we belong to the Lifegiver. Through deception, we were subjugated by the Lifetaker. But because the Lifegiver was willing to sacrifice all to rescue us from Satan’s grasp, we may choose to once again belong to Him.
Jesus, the Lifegiver, has come so that we “may have life, and that [we] may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10, last half.
See 1 Kings 3:16–28.