Thursday, February 4, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 5. Solomon Asks For Wisdom

Prophets And Kings
Day 5
Solomon Asks For Wisdom

Today we studies a passage that is one of the most well known about Solomon in which him asks for wisdom. The Lord will be pleased wif this request and will grant many more blessins besides wisdom.

1 KINGS 3:1-15
"Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem." (1 Kings 3:1) Solomon is quick to make a peace treaty with his powerful neighbor Egypt, but the marrying of a foreign wife is forbidden by the word of God unless she becomes a convert. We don't know whether she converted to the God of Israel or not and we will find as time goes on that Solomon has a woman problem. He loves women and especially foreign women. They will turn his heart aside from the living God.

Solomon appears to be making another mistake besides marrying a foreign wife. "The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places." (1 Kings 3:2-3) We learned from our study of 1st and 2nd Samuel that the people were observing the religious requirements on the high places before the ark was brought to Jerusalem and before David made a tent for it there. There was evidently nothing wrong with sacrificing on the hilltops in the days of the prophet Samuel because we find him doing it. But the Bible words it negatively in today's passage and it is assumed that the people should be sacrificing at the spiritual capitol of the nation where the ark is. Later on, when many in Israel turn to idolatry, these high places will become locations of pagan worship.

It would have been a good thing if Solomon had asked for wisdom sooner. He has already made some errors, but the Lord will appear to him in an effort to turn him in the right direction. "The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar." (1 Kings 3:4) This number is staggering. It shows Solomon's great wealth and his desire to honor the Lord, but we will see that the Lord prefers a heart that seeks Him. We can perform acts of humility all day long but they are meaningless if our hearts aren't right with God. We can do good works and be busy in the church but the Lord looks on the inward man. Something in Solomon's heart longs to know the Lord but he seems a bit immature in the faith. Making a great show of worship cannot compare with quiet time spent in the prayer closet with God. 

"At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.'" (1 Kings 3:5) The Lord's door is always open to us and we, as His children, are free to ask Him for the desires of our hearts. Like a good Father, He will sometimes have to say no to some of our requests because He knows what the outcome would be of saying yes. I have a feeling that Solomon had a desire on his heart for wisdom, a burning need to know how to properly lead the nation, and I think he was overwhelmed by the responsibility and was probably at least a little afraid. For whatever reason, he had not yet brought a request to God for wisdom but the Lord knew he wanted to ask Him. I think this request was on his heart at Gibeon and that Solomon went to bed that night with the burden of the nation lying heavy on his shoulders. 

When the Lord speaks, Solomon is quick to pour out his heart. I imagine the words tumbling from his lips as if the one thing in life he has been waiting for is for the Lord to ask him what he wants. "Solomon answered, 'You have shown great kindness to Your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?'" (1 Kings 3:6-9) We don't know how old Solomon was when he became king. Estimations of his age are all over the map but it's generally assumed he was anywhere from fourteen to his early twenties. It seems that his son Rehoboam was born prior to Solomon taking the throne so this would mean Solomon was already married and that Pharaoh's daughter was not his first wife. It's unlikely he would have been married before mid to late teens at least, so I'm going to go along with the scholars who feel he may have been around twenty when he became king. This is a young age to lead a nation. Though Solomon is probably not literally a child, he feels like one. It's possible also that many citizens of Israel consider him a child, for we recall that a great number of them wanted his older brother Adonihah to be king. I think Solomon was well aware of his lack of experience and was feeling the disapproval of those who were not for him. 

The request for wisdom is what God wanted to hear. "The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this." (1 Kings 3:10) Have we ever come to God in prayer and not really said what was on our hearts? Maybe we make requests for loved ones or for the sick but we hold back something that's bothering us. The Lord is pleased because wisdom is an honorable thing to desire but I wonder if He was pleased because He knew this was the most burning need in Solomon's heart. The Lord is pleased when we tell Him what matters to us. There's no use in holding anything back from Him. He wants us to get things out in the open so they can be dealt with. I think Solomon feared leading the nation and felt inadequate to do so, but I've noticed that sometimes it's hard to admit fears to God. It makes us feel like we are failing in our faith. While it's true that our faith pleases God, who else can increase our faith but Him? Hiding our fears won't help us but laying them out before the Lord is the best thing we can do with them. When overcome with doubts and fears the best thing to do is what the disciples did when they said, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5) I need more faith, don't you? Sometimes, especially in the middle of the night, I get things on my mind that worry me. I feel fearful about circumstances I can't control. But the Lord is there in the night with me, just like He was with Solomon, waiting for me to pour my heart out to Him.

"So God said to him, 'Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 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. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for---both wealth and honor---so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to Me and keep My decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.'" (1 Kings 3:11-14) One of my favorite parts of today's passage is where the Lord says, "I will give you what you have not asked for". Hasn't the Lord blessed us beyond what we thought to ask Him for? If we are faithful to Him, He is faithful to supply all our needs, and in addition He supplies a whole lot of our wants too. The Lord Jesus said that the Father knows everything we need to sustain our lives, such as food and clothing and shelter. But He also pointed out that our focus isn't to be on the material things of life but that our focus is to be on God. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) This is what Solomon has done in today's passage: he has sought the Lord's kingdom and His righteousness. The Lord gave him the good thing he asked for and a lot more besides.

"Then Solomon awoke---and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord's covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court." (1 Kings 3:15) Solomon goes home and sacrifices in a more proper place than Gibeon, for the ark of the Lord is in Jerusalem. He offers burnt offerings (offerings for atonement of sin) and fellowship offerings (free will offerings of thankfulness). Then Solomon celebrates with his court by inviting them to a feast. 

Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs and in it he extols the virtues of wisdom. He appears to value it above all other qualities a man can have, at least in his younger years when he was bringing up children. Solomon's kingdom will surpass that of David's but spiritually he will never have the close relationship with God that his father had. In the later years of his life Solomon will write the book of Ecclesiastes which centers around the vanity of seeking worldly things. He has had everything material he could ever want. He has had all the beautiful women he could handle. He has had all the fame and glory any king could desire. But all of that is nothing without a real relationship with the Creator. Solomon's request for wisdom was an honorable request but I think there's something even more important we can ask for: to love and trust our God. This is the first and most important commandment, according to the Lord Jesus Christ, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." (Luke 10:27) Lord, help us to love You more and more each day.

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