A Question of Wisdom

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  August 15, 2021

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1 Kings 3:3 – 14 (NIV)

We are seeing so many troubling things happening in the world around us including in places like Haiti and Afghanistan.  And we are watching people make decisions on behalf of others, decisions that are not necessarily in their best interest...  And I thought about that as I read this passage from 1 Kings 3.  What came to mind was the idea that for King Solomon, his desire to faithfully lead his people and lead them well, boiled down to what could be described as: A QUESTION OF WISDOM.
There are certain times in life when we ask for things without fully realizing the depth or the magnitude of what it is that we are asking for… and this is what we see happened for King Solomon in our text for today.
Solomon had assumed the throne as king from his father, David, who had died after reigning over Israel for 40 years.  According to the scriptures, David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).  And yet, for those of us who know anything about David, we know he was far from perfect.
David reigned as a successful king for several years.  He accomplished many great things and defeated countless enemies.  But one day, a beautiful woman named Bathsheba caught his eye and things took a turn for the worst for the great King David.  When all was said and done, David had committed adultery, gotten another man’s wife pregnant and set the man up to be killed, all in an attempt to keep his affair a secret.
But in spite of all that, the scriptures still describe David as a man after God’s own heart.  And God remained faithful to the promise He made to David that there would always be one of his descendants on the throne.  And the fact is that there always will be, because the line of David leads directly to the King of Kings, Jesus.
But before we get to Jesus in the lineage of King David, we must first consider David’s son, Solomon, who according to our text, loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of his father, David.
It is important to note here that these statutes did not include the lying, adultery and murder that David committed.  No, the statutes Solomon followed are the ones referenced in Psalm 19 where David wrote, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
And in Psalm 93 which reads, “Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O LORD.” 
And in Psalm 119, the longest of all the Psalms which contains over 20 references to God’s statutes.
You see, King David was a man who was very familiar with God’s statutes and he walked in them to the best of his ability in spite of his personal failures.  And as we look at our text for today, we find that Solomon had a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps.
However, it should come as little surprise that just like his father, and just like all of us, Solomon was not perfect in his attempts to adhere to God’s statutes. 
Despite God’s command against taking foreign wives, Solomon married an Egyptian woman, who was actually Pharaoh’s daughter.  And while this may have been a strategic political alliance between King Solomon and the Pharaoh, it still violated God’s law. 
It is in the book of Exodus (34:15 – 16), that we find God’s caution against taking foreign wives because of the potential it had to lead the Israelites to worship their foreign gods.  And if we look back at verse 3 of our text, it says that Solomon walked in the statutes of his father David, “only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.”
The sacrifices that were offered and the incense that was burned were contrary to the statutes that David walked in and were not pleasing to God.  And yet, if we keep reading, we find that despite Solomon’s missteps, God was just as faithful to Solomon as He was to Solomon’s father, David.
This is just a reminder to us today – no matter how far off track we may get, and no matter how many missteps we may take, God will still remain faithful to His promises to us, just as He was for David and for Solomon and countless others throughout the scriptures.
Now turning back to our text for the morning, we read that the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him, “Ask what I should give you.” 
Can you imagine God coming to you and saying, “Jeff, what do you want, just ask me for it” or “Linda, ask me for anything, whatever you want.”
It’s better than sitting on Santa Claus’s knee at the shopping mall with your Christmas wish list or looking through the old Toys R Us big book or scrolling through all the pop-up ads on the Internet.  God told Solomon, “Just ask.”
And what was Solomon’s response?  Did he ask for the winning combination for the Mega Million drawing? Did he start strutting around like a peacock thinking he had finally hit the mother lode?  Did he let pride and arrogance consume him?
No.  I daresay that for Solomon, it really came down to A QUESTION OF WISDOM
He very humbly asked for an understanding mind to govern God’s people, and the ability to discern between good and evil.  Acknowledging his youth and lack of experience as a king, Solomon asked for what can best be described simply as “wisdom.”
Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships… in other words, having insight.  It is also defined as good sense or having and using judgment.
Different versions of the Bible translate Solomon’s request as “a discerning heart to govern your people” (NIV), an understanding heart to judge your people (NKJV) or my personal favorite– a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well (MSG).
Regardless of which version of the Bible you read; however, the bottom line is that Solomon did not ask selfishly for something for himself, although he clearly could have.  Instead, he asked God to give him that which he needed in order to best lead God’s people.  For him, it was really A QUESTION OF WISDOM.
I can’t help but wonder, would we be so humble as to readily admit our shortcomings and ask for wisdom rather than money, power or influence?  In the words of Arsenio Hall, “Things that make you go hmmm…”
Now, the text says God honored Solomon’s request.  In fact, the Word says the Lord was so pleased that He not only granted Solomon’s request for a wise and discerning heart, verse 13 says that God gave Solomon even what he didn’t ask for – riches and honor.
Let’s be honest, many of us would have probably started out asking for the riches and honor and missed out on the added blessing of wisdom entirely.
But the scriptures tell us in Matthew 6:33 that we have to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to us as well.  And clearly, Solomon was seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first in asking for what he wanted… which was something he truly needed.
In Matthew 7 we read, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
And Psalm 37:4 reads, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Many times, we look at just the second half of that verse, “God will give you the desires of your heart,” without realizing that we have to do something first… we have to delight ourselves in the Lord.
But what does that mean, exactly, to delight ourselves in the Lord?  It means that we have to steep ourselves in God’s Word.  And it means we have to spend concentrated time with Him in prayer and meditation. 
Once we delight ourselves in the Lord, THEN the scriptures say that He will give us the desires of our hearts.  And there is something truly amazing that happens, when we delight ourselves in the Lord… our desires actually begin to change. 
Our desires are no longer for the things that will bring us glory or momentary pleasure.  Our desires become those things that will bring glory to God and that are pleasing and acceptable in His sight.
Our desire is no longer for fancy cars, big houses and designer clothes but for ways we can provide clothing, shelter and transportation for others who may be in need.
Our level of success is no longer measured by the amount of money in our bank account but by the number of lives we are able to touch through our generosity.
When we delight ourselves in the Lord, it is no longer about what someone else can do for us; it is all about what we can do for others.  It is all about becoming like Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45).
And there is another amazing thing that happens… when we take the focus off of ourselves and turn our attention first to God and then to others, marvelous things begin to happen in our lives as well.
King Solomon asked for an understanding mind so that he could govern God’s people and know right from wrong, and that is what God gave him.  But then God honored Solomon’s desire to put the needs of others ahead of his own -- by giving him riches, honor and even the promise of long life if Solomon was willing to walk in God’s way.
So, what are we asking God for today?
Is it A QUESTION OF WISDOM for us like it was for King Solomon?
James 1:5 tells us that, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
When we make our petitions known to God, we must believe that God not only can answer our prayers but that God will answer our prayers. 
Now, as they say, we should be careful what we ask for… because many times what we get will be much different than what we thought we wanted… but when that happens, it may be even better than we could ever have imagined.
In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians (3:20) that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us. 
Now, when we look to the scriptures, we find that in spite of all of David’s and Solomon’s flaws and shortcomings, God used them anyhow.
David was a liar, an adulterer and a murderer and yet he will forever be known as a man after God’s own heart.  Not only was he a mighty warrior in battle, David was a gifted and talented musician who danced before the Lord.  His songs live on to this day and he is credited with writing almost half of the book of Psalms.
Solomon loved the Lord and walked according to the statutes of his father, David, but he violated God’s laws and married foreign women and even worshipped foreign gods.  And yet, Solomon will be remembered as a man of great wisdom and a man of great wealth.  In spite of everything, he found favor with the Lord and God even used him to build the temple of the Lord in the place of his father, David.  And just as David’s words live on in the Psalms, Solomon’s wisdom continues to live on in the Book of Proverbs.
And there are many other examples in the Bible of God using ordinary, flawed people to accomplish extraordinary things.  For example: Moses was a murderer…  Rahab was a prostitute…  Jacob was a con man…  Peter was a liar… And Paul was a persecutor of Christians.  And yet God used each of these people to fulfill their own unique purpose.
The moral of the story is that God can use each and every one of us, flaws and all, for His purpose as well.  It has never been about how good we are or think we are or even how bad we may have been.  It has always been about God’s love and forgiveness that makes us fit for His use.
Too often, even as Christians (or especially as Christians), we bring up the past and use it as a weapon against one another.  And sadly, even against ourselves – but as we heard last week, we are called to forgive one another just as God has forgiven us.  And when we accept God’s forgiveness and lovingly pass that forgiveness on to others, we can ask God to use us, in spite of our past.
So, what are you asking God for today? Are you asking God to use you in a mighty way?  Are you asking God to do something through you to bless someone else?  Are you asking God to send someone your way so that you can share the love of Christ with them?
Now while we think about what we should be asking God for, there’s a poem I want to share.  It’s one I shared many years ago and it is one I wish I could take credit for writing… but it is actually a poem written by one of the most prolific writers there ever was – Author Unknown. 

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey;
I asked God for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things;

I asked God for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise;
I asked God for power, that I might have the praise of man,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God;

I asked God for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things;
I got nothing that I asked for - but everything I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered,
I am among all men, most richly blessed.
And that is what is so amazing about God.  When we come to Him with our wish lists, He looks past the superficial and gets right to the heart of the matter… blessing us beyond measure, because while God may not always give us what we want – He ALWAYS gives us exactly what we need.
King Solomon knew what he needed in order to lead his people honorably and that was a discerning, understanding, and God-listening spirit. 
And just as there was A QUESTION OF WISDOM for King Solomon in his day, there is A QUESTION OF WISDOM that our modern-day leaders need to examine as well… particularly as we look at what is happening in the world around us, with everything from wildfires and earthquakes to political unrest and terrorist threats, both here and abroad.  
But this QUESTION OF WISDOM is not reserved simply for those in positions of leadership and power.  It is something that each of us should also be exploring.  This is especially pertinent as we think about this ongoing pandemic and what it means for us to protect not only ourselves but our families and friends, neighbors and strangers, alike.
The question of whether or not to get a vaccination or to take health and safety precautions in the face of a devastating and deadly virus is not and should not be treated as a political or partisan issue.  It really is just A QUESTION OF WISDOM when taken in light of the scientific facts and the reality we are seeing unfold around us.
Now, before we move to our time together at the Table, there is another matter that comes down to A QUESTION OF WISDOM. And that is the decision that we must all make when it comes to accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Saying yes to the Lord Jesus is by far the wisest decision we will ever make because it is the key to salvation… and with it comes the promise of everlasting life. 
Saying yes to the Lord is also one of the easiest decisions we can make.  Unlike other major decisions like buying a car, purchasing a home, or even changing jobs… there is no red tape involved… and there is no fine print to worry about… and there literally is no downside… well, unless we say no, of course, but who would want to say no to Jesus?  Not me!
Jesus said it best Himself in John 3:16 where we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Believe… and receive eternal life… that’s all there is to it.
Absolutely the best and wisest thing we could ever do… and the absolute greatest gift we will ever receive.