Sunday the 30th of July 2017
1 Kings 3: 5-12
This morning I am going to preach on the Old Testament reading from 1 Kings Chapter 3 which is about King Solomon asking the Lord for wisdom. As I was thinking about this reading it occurred to me that when it comes to having wisdom, to us acting wisely, we need all the help that we can get. After all, there’s more than enough evil to discern in the world. We are faced with that many decisions that we have to make that sometimes it is very difficult to know how to be wise in our choices. And if we are to be honest there are many choices that we make in life that are not as black and white as we would like them to be; sometimes being wise is less about ‘good and evil’ and more about choosing between two things that are equally as good or choosing between the lesser of two evils, which is very difficult.
When it comes to having wisdom, you and I need the wisdom that God gives us. We need his help. And this is the point in today’s reading that King Solomon recognizes.
King Solomon was on the brink of being the King of Israel at the height of its power. And before he starts the Lord comes to him in a dream and says: “Ok, Solomon. You have my ear. Ask what I should give you.”
If you were in Solomon’s position and the Lord said this to you, what would you ask for? Of course the answer would depend on where you were at and where your priorities were. Maybe we would ask for the protection of our land; maybe the protection of culture; or maybe if we were bold we might ask for the possession of other lands and other cultures. We might even ask to be in a place where we could accumulate riches and status. These are the things that the world around us would answer to such a question, as they are fear and greed driven responses. But Solomon, at this point when the Lord asks him the question, is not driven by these things.
What Solomon does in today’s reading can teach us much about wisdom, particularly the wisdom that comes to us through the Lord; wisdom as seen through God’s eyes. In the verses prior, before the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, Solomon went to Gibeon to make sacrifice to the Lord (v. 4). In doing this, Solomon, even if he did not understand everything properly, was showing a heart of contrition and prayer. Wisdom begins with repentance. Through the eyes of faith, unrepentant wisdom is not wisdom at all. As Proverbs 9: 10 tells us: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Solomon begins by sacrificing to the Lord, which is an act of repentance.
When the Lord speaks to him, Solomon says: “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David…” (v. 6). Solomon has just been given a blank cheque, so to speak. He can ask for anything he wants. So how does he respond? Unlike what I would be tempted to do, Solomon does not go straight into his wish list. He does not ask God for all the things he wants; rather, he first acknowledges God for his loving kindness to his father and to himself. Wisdom begins with a prayer of acknowledgement and thanksgiving.
Solomon goes on to say to the Lord: “…And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child…” (v. 7). Solomon is about to make his request for wisdom, but before he does he acknowledges his child-like dependence upon God. In this way there is a lesson for us all in that it is when we are humble (or in some cases humbled!), that we understand our need for wisdom that only God can give. Wisdom begins with humility.
When Solomon asks the Lord to give him wisdom, he says to the Lord: “So give your servant a discerning mind to govern your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” King Solomon wanted an understanding mind to judge between good and evil (right and wrong). But when God who was pleased with Solomon’s response answered him, he answered with a significant difference. “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (v12). Notice that Solomon asks for a wise mind. But God gives him a wise heart.
In order for Solomon to lead God’s people, he had to know God’s heart. Sometimes I wonder whether in our prayers when we seek God to guide us, where we ask him to show us the way, whether we are wanting God to give us a wise mind. Maybe we want him to help us understand; to be able to work things out; to be able to put things into boxes so that things make sense to us. But are we prepared for him to give us not a wise mind, but a wise heart? Are we prepared to see things through his eyes? To see behind the outer layer of what we see? To see the real issues we face?
Are we prepared for our hearts to be changed? And when they are, are we then prepared to follow the Lord where he leads us? You see a wise heart is a heart that listens to the Lord and then acts on what he tells us. Listening and obedience are one and the same in the Bible. If we think we are listening to God, but are not obeying, we are just hearing things—in one ear and out the other—and this is not wise. True wisdom means having open hearts and minds to be able to be led in ways in which we see God’s heart in the issues that are before us.
The Lord gifted Solomon with great wisdom, and through this Solomon was able to do great things; significantly, he was the king who built the temple of the Lord. But even Solomon in all his giftedness from the Lord gave in to the temptation to let the power lead him astray. Solomon in all his wisdom was led astray to worship false idols. As a result the power and the authority that the king of Israel had began to crumble. In this there is also a lesson for you and me; we need to continually rely on God and ask him to give us wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God and we need to be aware that we too are just as susceptible to falling away. No amount of human wisdom will save us from our sinful nature, no matter how wise we may think we are at times. As scripture tells us: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27). Our salvation is not based on how wise we are, but on God’s wisdom, and in his wisdom he gave the world his only son Jesus to die for our sins and rise again to give us new life. “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” and we can only do this because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. We trust his mercy and his grace to us through him.
I encourage you all in your walk with our Lord to learn from Solomon, to walk with the Lord in repentance, thanksgiving and humility; knowing that whatever wisdom we have needs to come from him. I encourage you all to have an open heart to hear and receive so that you can know God’s heart for the situations you face in your life. But most of all I pray that you will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and boast only in what he has done for you, so you are not tempted to boast in your own selves. In walking with our Lord in these ways, your life will be full of Godly wisdom and you will be able to see him at work in your daily life.