1 Kings 3:4-15 – Week Two
Many of you are probably familiar with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. “Make-A-Wish traces its inspiration to Christopher James Greicius, an energetic 7-year-old boy battling leukemia who wishes to be a police officer. In 1980, his Phoenix community came together to make his wish come true. Little did Chris know that his wish would create a movement that would transform millions of lives.” “Make-A-Wish has collectively granted more than 520,000 wishes worldwide, making it the world’s largest wish-granting organization.”[i]
The Make-a-Wish Foundation receives many requests from little boys wanting to be a police officer, a cowboy, little girls wanting to be a princess or a mermaid, Disney trips, swimming with dolphins, bedroom makeovers, being able to meet a celebrity to the one little girl that wished to “hear Mickey Mouse burp.”[ii]
“When my sister was 5 and I was 8, she had cancer and had the opportunity to make a wish. When our mom and the make-a-wish person sat down with her, they told her she could wish for whatever she wanted. She just kept saying she wanted macaroni. They kept saying, ‘but it can be anything you want!’, yet she simply wanted macaroni and cheese. After some strong encouragement to think bigger, and the make-a-wish person suggesting Disneyland, she chose to go to Disneyland.”[iii]
How many of us would know exactly what to wish for if we were asked? A major influence on our request would be what situation we may find ourselves in at that moment. The little girl asking for macaroni was obviously hungry at the time and just wanted a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Her need, as far as she was concerned, was food. People in the midst of a medical situation may wish for healing or comfort. Those having financial struggles may request financial relief. What we wish for reveals our passion at that moment in time.
Another influence on our wish would be the resources of the person who is asking. I’m hoping that if I, along with Dr. Phil, were to ask you what we each could give you, I would hope that you would realize my limitations and scale your request from me accordingly. Maybe Dr. Phil could give you the all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii and I could bring your favorite cupcakes. Dr. Phil’s resources are astronomical compared to mine. He is equipped to spend more and do more than I could ever imagine, but even Dr. Phil is limited. There are certain things that Dr. Phil could never be able to give you or anyone. But God has no limits, no boundaries, no cap on blessings.
King Solomon, in 1 Kings 3, is invited to make a wish. And it was God who promised to fulfill it. “God said, “Ask. What should I give you?”
We must consider Solomon’s situation at the time God poses this question.
His father, the beloved and great King David, has died. Solomon has faced mutiny from his own family members; he has had to avenge wrongdoings by those in his father’s inner circle; he has had to make difficult decisions. His early days of being king were not easy, to say the least. And, although we don’t know how old Solomon was at the time he became king, the general opinion is that he was between 15 and 20 years old. He’s a kid; old enough to be married, but a kid, nonetheless.
1 Kings 3:1 NET “Solomon made an alliance by marriage with Pharaoh, king of Egypt; married Pharaoh’s daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he could finish building his residence and the temple of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem. Now the people were offering sacrifices at the high places, because in those days a temple had not yet been built to honor the Lord. Solomon demonstrated his loyalty to the Lord by following the practices of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”
Although it may not seem like it at first, there’s actually a whole lot of information in these first few verses.
Solomon’s name comes from the Hebrew word “shalom” which means “peace”. [iv] God, Himself, refers to Solomon as a man of peace in 1 Chronicle 22:9 NIV “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign”. God has promised rest from enemies. He’s promised peace for Israel. But King Solomon took it a step further. He formed political alliances with surrounding kingdoms as a peaceful way of forming treaties by marrying the daughters of other rulers. This alone wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but, as a result of these marriages and unions, Solomon allowed the worship of other gods into his household because not everyone, as we know, worshipped God and God alone.
We know from these verses that the temple hasn’t been constructed yet, and so the Israelites were offering their sacrifices at the “high places”. The high places were often associated with worshipping the pagan gods. There was a belief that in order to be heard by the false gods you had to physically get on a higher plateau. Some of the “high places” were offensive to God because their purpose did not include Him or the people tried to use the same altar for Him as they did for other gods. In fact, God had told Moses to instruct the Israelites when they arrived in Canaan (Numbers 33:52 NIV) “drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.” Obviously, some high places were either never destroyed or they were rebuilt because the Israelites were still using them for sacrificial purposes.
We’re told that “Solomon demonstrated his loyalty to the Lord by following the practices of his father David.” Other translations will say that Solomon followed the statutes of his father. It’s somewhat interesting that David followed the statutes of his father and not the Lord Himself. David was, as we know, a man after God’s own heart. But David was not sinless. David made huge mistakes. He displeased God time and time again. We must recognize, however, that when confronted with his sins, he did take responsibility for them. He acknowledged his wrongdoings and fully accepted the punishment and consequences. He humbled himself and recognized God as his Lord. David knew that in order for Solomon to be the king God desired him to be, Solomon needed to look to the Lord for guidance and not necessarily use David as the example to follow. In fact, in his final words to Solomon, David tells his son to “keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn;” (1 Kings 2:3 NKJV– emphasis mine) David knows he has messed up; he knows that his life wasn’t the best choice to use as a measuring stick, but that’s exactly what Solomon does. He uses his father’s life as a guide for the most part.
But even Solomon diverts from David’s practices. “And Solomon loved the LORD and walked in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” (1 Kings 3:3 BSB)
That last portion is significant because it suggests that Solomon is doing something that may be perceived as disloyal to God. That one word “except” tells us that Solomon chooses to do something different from the way that his father, David, had done. King David had previously brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem because he made having the presence of God a priority. David was passionate about having a united sense of worship. However, the tabernacle and bronze altar that had been previously used by the Israelites in the wilderness was positioned in Gibeon. Once the Ark had been placed in Jerusalem, it’s presumed that King David did not make it a practice to offer sacrifices at high places, but rather in the new tent in Jerusalem that housed the Ark.
As far as worshipping goes, David worshipped everywhere in all sorts of situations. When he was being hunted, he wrote, “because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (Psalm 63: 3-5 NIV) David’s worship was passionate and personal. He sought to please God. David writes in Psalm 51:16-17 NET “ Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it; you do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The sacrifice God desires is a humble spirit—O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject.”
David gets it. He knows that God wants an earnest, humble and repentant heart willing to worship at any given moment. Solomon, on the other hand, is a bit showier when it comes to worship. 1 Kings 3:4a HCSB tells us “ The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there because it was the most famous high place.” 2 Chronicles 1 tells us that Solomon took an entourage with him to Gibeon. He had gathered government officials, heads of families, and many others to accompany him to the high place. We’re also told that King Solomon “offered 1,000 burnt offerings on that altar.” (1 Kings 3:4b HCSB) This would have been a great indication of Solomon’s wealth and he had plenty of witnesses to see him make the sacrifice. Only God knows Solomon’s heart and his true intentions in Gibeon.
Even though Solomon may not be where God wants him to be, and may not be doing things how God wants them done, God speaks to King Solomon in his sleep and presents a rare opportunity. “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?” (1 Kings 3:5 HCSB)
Do you consider this to be an easy or a difficult question to answer?
If God were to speak to you one day in prayer and ask what you would want Him to give you, what would be your response? We may spend a few moments contemplating our answer; we may stop to consider the consequences of our requests. But what would be your response if God spoke to you while you were in deep sleep? There’s something quite transparent and honest about Solomon’s reply to God. He’s not awake so he doesn’t have the ability to analyze his answer. His natural and uninhibited response is gratitude to God for the favor that was shown to Solomon’s father, David. 1 Kings 3:6 ERV “Solomon answered, “You were very kind and loyal to your servant, my father David. He was faithful to you and lived a good, honest life. And you showed him the greatest kindness when you let his son take his place as king.” Solomon praises God. He acknowledges the favor that God has shown to David, and he recognizes that he is king because God allowed it.
And then he continues with rawness. 1 Kings 3:7 ERV “Lord my God, you have made me the king in my father’s place, but I am like a small child. I don’t have the wisdom I need to do what I must do.”
Do we expect our leaders to admit that they don’t know what they’re doing? There’s no doubt that we’ve had leaders at points in time that didn’t have a clue; they weren’t capable of doing the job; they didn’t have the answers. But it seemed as if the incompetent and ill-equipped leaders are the only ones who didn’t realize that.
Socrates is credited with this quote, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
It’s as if, in the darkness and stillness of the night, in just a one-on-one encounter with God, Solomon is completely honest. In an unconscious state of being, Solomon reveres God’s presence and Solomon’s response to God is saturated with humility. Solomon recognizes that, as a king, he has power, he has control, he has wealth, but he refers to himself as a small child, ill-equipped to carry out the responsibilities in a way that is pleasing to God. He identifies himself as a servant of God. He recognizes that the people in his command are really God’s people. And he asks God to give him the wisdom to do what is right. 1 Kings 3:8-9 ERV “I am your servant here among your chosen people. There are so many that they cannot be counted. So I ask you to give me the wisdom to rule and judge them well and to help me know the difference between right and wrong. Without such great wisdom, it would be impossible to rule this great nation.”
Solomon’s wish is based on knowing who he really is. Yes, he’s a king in the eyes of others. But Solomon sees himself as God’s servant among God’s people in a position to do God’s will and his desire is to be fulfilling in that role. “Godly leaders know that they are only effective when they lean on God for direction. Solomon was beginning a big task, and he knew that he needed God’s help.”[v] Solomon knew he needed a discerning heart. “The expression discerning heart literally means ‘listening heart’. Solomon knew a good leader listened to the people he ruled. He desired to issue decisions that reflected God’s character and justice, so he needed to listen well.”[vi]
Solomon’s response is pleasing to God. 1 Kings 3:10-15 ICB “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked him for this. So God said to him, “You did not ask for a long life. And you did not ask for riches for yourself. You did not ask for the death of your enemies. Since you asked for wisdom to make the right decisions, I will give you what you asked. I will give you wisdom and understanding. Your wisdom will be greater than anyone has had in the past. And there will never be anyone in the future like you. Also, I will give you what you did not ask for. You will have riches and honor. During your life no other king will be as great as you. I ask you to follow me and obey my laws and commands. Do this as your father David did. If you do, I will also give you a long life.”
“Then Solomon woke up. He knew that God had talked to him in the dream. Then he went to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Covenant with the Lord. There he gave burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord.”
The young king encounters God and is granted a wish. Solomon prayed for something that would cause him to participate; something that would require action on his part. He didn’t ask for God to bless him with wealth; he didn’t ask for God to eliminate his enemies. He asked God for a tool that he could use that would equip him to be an effective leader for God’s people.
Although our life experiences are all different, I imagine you can relate to this. I’ve considered what my answer would be if God made this offer to me. I’ve thought of different points in my life in which my answer would have been a very specific thing. Maybe even something temporary but something that was important to me at that time. It could have been something that I really thought I needed or wanted at that time, but I now realize that it wasn’t good for me. Maybe it would have been a quick resolution to a problem. Perhaps it would have been for a new job, a baby, or financial relief. This got me to thinking that we don’t always consider the magnitude, the power, the limitless of God, and much like that little 5-year-old girl, we simply wish for the equivalent of macaroni and cheese. We settle for the ordinary and ask for little. We are content with routine and comfort and we don’t dare ask God to expand our experiences because we don’t know what that might entail. We fail to use the position, the power, the voice, the resources, and the tools He has already given us, much less ask Him to refine them, sharpen them, and use them for His purposes. Remember, David, prior to his death, had already commented on Solomon’s wisdom. The gift of wisdom already belonged to Solomon, but he asks God to sharpen that tool for Godly purposes. And God does just that.
Do you think God already knew what Solomon would ask for? I do. I think that’s one of the reasons God provided this opportunity to Solomon in the stillness of the night.
Solomon is known for his wise decisions. The famous story of the two mothers fighting over the one baby follows this request for wisdom. As a result, Solomon’s wisdom becomes well-known. 1 Kings 3:28 ICB “When the people of Israel heard about King Solomon’s decision, they respected him very much. They saw he had wisdom from God to make the right decisions.”
Solomon continued to dispense wisdom. He wrote much of the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:7 DRB “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. “Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12 NLT)
Now, I wish I could tell you that King Solomon always made the right decisions, that his wisdom carried him along a straight and narrow path that always led him to God, but I can’t. We’ll find out in the next few weeks that, although Solomon starts his kingship in a God-fearing, wise stance, he doesn’t stay there.
King Solomon, you may have noticed, after his encounter with God, returned to Jerusalem, to the Ark, and worshipped God there. He recognized that fearing the Lord, and humbling ourselves before Him is what prepares us to receive Him. Solomon, who could have asked for anything simply wanted a listening heart. He wanted to hear God; he wanted to hear God’s people and he wanted to do what was right.
Although God is happy for us to rely on Him for our needs, He wants us to ask for more than just macaroni and cheese. He wants us to experience His goodness, His blessings, and His love for us to be used for His glory and His purposes. He wants us to be encouraged to set our sights on the equivalent of Disneyland. Ephesians 3:20 NET “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
What will you ask Him for? Remember, your request reveals your passion.
[iv] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Study Bible
[v] Explore the Bible, Bryan Beyer & Donna McKinney
[vi] Explore the Bible, Bryan Beyer & Donna McKinney