A Wise Request

1 Kings 3[i]

David was king over Israel for years.  At the end of forty years, David made his son Solomon king in his place.  There were a few challenges to Solomon’s authority at the beginning, but he quickly overcame those challenges and was soon firmly established as king over all Israel.

This brings us to 1 Kings 3.  Solomon is around 20 years old and he is king.

1 Kings 3 starts out:
Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and married one of his daughters.  (v. 1)

This is an interesting fact to begin this chapter with.  Later on in Solomon’s life, this is going to play a very significant role.  This verse gives us a glimpse of Solomon’s character as he starts out as a very young king.  God had said, “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.”  (Deuteronomy 17:17)  However, Solomon either did not know this or ignored it.

This world offers three things to draw our hearts away from the Lord.  These are:  1) the lust of the flesh 2) the lust of the eyes and 3) the boastful pride of life.  (1 John 2:16) 

Solomon was raised in David’s household.  David had many wives and concubines, and Solomon followed David’s example.  Solomon eventually would have many more wives than David ever did.  This behavior could be tied to the lust of the flesh, but because of the political aspect, it could also be tied to the boastful pride of life.  Having many wives was what kings did, and the Lord warned against being like other kings.

As 1 Kings 3 continues to describe the foundations of Solomon’s reign, it says:
Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.  (v. 3, ESV)[ii]

With this verse, the Lord is giving us more background information.  Solomon loved the Lord.  However, the word “only” in the ESV text is pointing out an exception.  He followed the statutes or ways of David, “except” on this one point.

Here again, let me take you to Deuteronomy.  In Deuteronomy 12:1-14, God clearly instructs the Israelites on the location where they are to worship.  There is much good instruction there, but let me just show you verses 13 and 14. 
Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, but at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.  ESV

The first and greatest commandment according to the Lord Jesus is to love the Lord our God with our whole heart.  Solomon loved the Lord God.  However, as 1 Kings 3:3 tells us, his love of God was tainted with a little bit of self-will.  1 Kings 3:3 seems to imply that David did not worship at the high places.  During the time of the judges, one of the problems that Israel repeatedly faced was that they did not entirely destroy the high places where the Canaanites who had been in the land before them had worshiped.  As a result, they were often led astray and worshiped the gods of the Canaanites.

If the world has three things to offer to draw us away from God, our enemy appeals to our spiritual pride to get us to be unfaithful to the Lord.  This is what Colossians 2:18 is talking about when it says, "Their sinful minds have made them proud."  False spirituality appeals to our flesh.  This is why Jesus said the Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Not one of us is perfect in our worship, and Solomon is a case in point.  If we had to be perfect before God would answer our prayers, our prayers would never be answered.

Solomon went to the most important high place in Israel.  There he sacrificed 1000 burnt offerings. 

The Lord is not impressed with the size of our offerings.  Later on in the history of Israel, the Lord rebukes his people for offering meaningless sacrifices because their hearts were not right in their worship.  Therefore, we can assume that what got God's attention was the fact that Solomon was seeking God.

1 Kings 3:5 says:
That night the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want?  Ask, and I will give it to you!”

Solomon seems to have been seeking the Lord with a purpose.  Being young and inexperienced, he quite possibly was overwhelmed with his new job.  So, he said:
O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.  And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!  Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”  (2 Kings 3:7-9)

This request pleased the Lord.

The Lord is pleased when we call on him for help.  Psalm 50:15 says, “Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory."  This and many passages like it encourage us to call on the name of the Lord.

What was particularly pleasing in Solomon's request was the fact that he asked for wisdom to judge God's people rightly rather than asking for anything for himself.

Solomon had a big job before him.  His kingdom had enemies.  He could have asked for security or strength to defeat his enemies.  He could have asked for economic security for his country.  However, at this point his main concern was for the people of God.

This is consistent with the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Ephesians 6:18 says, "Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”  (ESV) This and many texts like it tell us to pray for others.  God is interested in our attitude toward others, and wants us to consider others as more important than ourselves.  Solomon’s request demonstrates this selfless consideration of others.

God answered Solomon by giving him wisdom greater than any other person has ever had.  He also gave him the riches and security he did not ask for.

God has not promised us that we will all be rich.  However, he does say:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  (Matthew 6:33)

The last part of chapter 3 of 1 Kings gives an illustration of how God made Solomon wise.  It tells the story of two women both claiming one baby as their own.  The women were arguing back and forth before the King, "The baby is mine."  In an age where DNA tests were not possible, this seemed like an impossible problem.  However, King Solomon called for a sword, and ordered that the baby be split in two and given to both women.  The real mother said, "No don't kill the baby, let her have him."

Solomon’s ability to quickly discern the hearts and motives of these two mothers and resolve the issue demonstrated to the nation that they had a wise king who would rule with justice.

Throughout his life, Solomon was known for and sought for his great wisdom.  Kings and queens from other nations traveled to Israel just to hear the wisdom of Solomon.  1 Kings 4:29-32 tells us of Solomon’s wisdom:
God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore.  In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations.  He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs.  He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish.  And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.

Solomon with all his wisdom was not able to free himself from the sins of the flesh.  Later in life, the multiple wives and the high places prove to be his downfall.  However, with his wisdom, Solomon was able to sort through all that life has to offer and determine what really matters.  He offered a conclusion.  It is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13.  He says:
That’s the whole story.  Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.

This is similar to the command that Jesus gives:
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  (Matthew 6:33)

[i]  Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.  Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.


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