1 Kings 3:3-15
Stephen Caswell © 2001
In January 1970, Max Born died. A close friend of Albert Einstein and a colleague of Max Planck and Otto Hahn, the nuclear physicists, he was one of the great minds of the twentieth century. In an interview on German television before his death, Born commented: I’d be happier if we had scientists with less brains and more wisdom.
Today there is a great emphasis on financial security. Experts advise us to invest in shares, property or term deposits in the bank. Shopping catalogues advertise all the things that we can't live with out. Health experts tell us what to eat and how to exercise if we want a long happy life. Others tell us that we need a university degree. There are so many voices calling out to us. Tonight if I said that you could choose anything in the world, what would you choose? Would you choose wealth, fame, good looks, health, popularity, possessions, long life or happiness? Or would you choose something else like wisdom? God gave Solomon such a choice after he became king. Tonight I want to look at his response. We will see three things: The Offerings, Solomon's Request and God's Reply.
I. The Offerings
a. Solomon's Offerings
1 Kings 3:3-4 And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places. Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.
Solomon offered two kinds of sacrifices to God, a righteous life and burnt offerings. His actions were motivated by his love for the Lord. Solomon's desire was to please God. He wanted to have a close relationship with God like his father David did. Solomon didn't just play Church on Sunday, he walked in the statutes of his father David. God expects us to live the same way. He doesn't want us just on Sunday, God wants us for the whole week. He asks us to be His disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Solomon also offered sacrifices at the high places. Why there? Because the temple hadn't been built yet. Verse 4 tells us that Solomon offered burnt offerings on the altar. A burnt offering was totally consumed by fire. This was an offering to atone for sin. God commanded Israel to offer these sacrifices to atone for their sin. Even though Solomon walked according to God's Law, there were times when he failed and needed God's forgiveness. Burnt offerings were sacrificed for this purpose. Solomon offered one thousand burnt offerings, not because he was particularly wicked, but because he was expressing his complete dedication to God. We too need to follow this principle of obedience to God and confession of sin. 1 John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
b. God's Offer
1 Kings 3:5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, Ask! What shall I give you?
Solomon offered 1,000 burnt offerings to God showing his complete devotion. Then he found out that you can't out give God. David learned the same lesson. David asked to build a house for God. Then God promised to build him a house and establish a royal dynasty for him. God responded to Solomon's devotion with an offer of His own. The Lord appeared to him in a dream that night and told him to ask for whatever he wanted. This was a very generous offer. There doesn't seem to be any strings attached. God gave Solomon a blank cheque and told him to fill in the details. How gracious God was to Solomon. Yet God commands us to ask and it will be given to us, to seek and we will find and to knock and it will be opened to us.
Solomon offered his life to God by walking in obedience to God's Word. He also dealt with his sin by offering sacrifices. As a result the Lord made a generous offer to Solomon. God gives the best gifts to those who are devoted to Him. God loves to give blessings to His children but often our sin keeps Him from doing this. Are you living for the Lord or yourself? Are you obeying God's Word and confessing your sin when you fail? Are you living the kind of a life that God can bless?
II. Solomon's Request
Solomon's responded to God's offer with a beautiful prayer. His prayer contains thanksgiving, humility and thoughtfulness.
1 Kings 3:6 And Solomon said: You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
Solomon began by thanking the Lord for showing mercy unto his father David. Solomon knew very well that God had blessed his father. He knew that the Lord had enabled him to walk uprightly. So Solomon thanked God for His mercy and kindness to their family. Now the Lord had continued the same mercy to Solomon. God had promised David that one of his sons would succeed him as king. The Lord had kept His promise. Solomon acknowledged God's grace in allowing himself to be king. We can learn a lot from Solomon's prayer. When we come before the throne of grace let us first thank God for His mercy and goodness to us, then let us humbly present our requests.
Psalm 103:1-4 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Many years ago, a boat was wrecked in a storm on Lake Michigan at Evanston, Illinois. Students from Northwestern University formed themselves into rescue teams. One student, Edward Spencer, saved seventeen people from the sinking ship. When he was carried exhausted to his room, he asked, Did I do my best? Do you think I did my best? Years later, R. A. Torrey was talking about this incident at a meeting in Los Angeles, and a man in the audience called out that Edward Spencer was present. Dr. Torrey invited Spencer to the platform. An old man with white hair slowly climbed the steps as the applause rang out. Dr. Torrey asked him if anything in particular stood out in his memory. Only this, sir, he replied, of the seventeen people I saved, not one of them thanked me. Let us not be ungrateful to God for saving us. Let us thank Him often for His benefits.
1 Kings 3:7-8 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.
The second thing we notice about Solomon's prayer is that he was very humble. Solomon called himself God's servant in verses 7, 8 and 9. He knew the Lord personally because he called Him, my God. But he also knew His position. He recognized God's sovereignty over all. The Lord was master, Solomon was but His servant. Solomon was not too proud to admit his weaknesses. He knew that ruling over God's people was a great task and he wasn't equipped for it. By referring to himself as a child Solomon acknowledged that he was both young and inexperienced in leadership. David had called Solomon a wise man in chapter 2 verse 9. Yet Solomon humbly acknowledged his lack of ability to fulfill his duty well. We do well to learn from this.
1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
The Real Servants
The great leaders of men in all fields have not been the arrogant and the greedy, but the servants. The real servants are the true nobility. The greatest of all, the Son of God Himself, declared that He had come not to be served but to be a servant, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Kings 3:9 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?
When President McKinley took the oath of office as President of the United States, he placed his lips on these words: Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, that is so great. Though advanced to the highest honor possible, yet he was deeply conscious of his responsibility; and also felt his need of divine assistance.
Here we come to the crunch. What does Solomon choose? He asks for spiritual blessings rather than material. He seeks to please God , not himself. His request will benefit the nation not just himself. Solomon requested wisdom to rule well. He wanted to execute justice in Israel according to God's Law. Solomon knew that human wisdom is not sufficient when it comes to leading God's people. He asked the Lord to grant to him spiritual discernment to rule justly. Solomon's choice revealed his heart was in the right place. Solomon valued the spiritual more than the material. Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Solomon pursued this. We do well to pursue the same values.
Abraham Lincoln said this: I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.
Solomon started his prayer with thanksgiving. He thanked God for the mercy He had shown to his family. He presented His prayer humbly as a servant of God. He acknowledged his insufficiency for this great task. Then he asked God to give him wisdom so that he might lead well. Do you pray this way? God longs for us to make our requests before Him this way.
III. God's Response
a. God Was Pleased
1 Kings 3:10-11 The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice,
God was pleased with Solomon's request. God was impressed that even though Solomon was young he valued the spiritual over the material. God listed the things people usually choose, a long life, riches or the death of their enemies. How many people would have made the same choice given the opportunity? Not very many. Most people are selfish, even many believers. They think of themselves rather than others. They choose material blessings over spiritual ones. God was pleased that Solomon chose wisdom in order that he might serve others.
b. God Gave Solomon Wisdom
1 Kings 3:12 behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.
God gave Solomon what he asked for and He gave it to him abundantly. The Lord gave Solomon more wisdom than anyone else would ever possess. God equipped him with the wisdom to rule, but He didn't limit Solomon's wisdom to only justice. Solomon was wise in matters of science, nature and the arts. His wisdom exceeded the wisest men in all the earth, then and for all times.
1 Kings 4:29-34: And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men — than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
c. God Gave Solomon Wealth & Honor
1 Kings 3:13-14 And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.
Because Solomon desired to be a wise servant for the Lord, God gave him much more than he asked for. The Lord gave him riches and honor in abundance. There wasn't a king like Solomon all his days. When the Queen of Sheba saw his wealth and heard His wisdom her breath was taken away. When people put spiritual blessings before material ones, God often gives the material ones too. God does this because He knows they can be trusted with wealth since they prize the spiritual most. Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. The Lord also promised Solomon a long life if he would walk in his statutes. This last gift was conditional upon Solomon's obedience to God's Law. Solomon needed to continue the way he had started his life.
What would you ask God for if He gave you the same offer? Would you ask for wealth, health, fame a long life, or happiness? Or would you ask for wisdom? If you would ask for God's wisdom to live then I have good news for you. God offers all believers His wisdom if they will but ask for it. James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
God promises to give wisdom to all who will ask for it in faith. When I was a young Christian I remember praying this prayer. I can testify to the fact that God has given me far more wisdom than I had previously. Will you ask the Lord to give you wisdom so that you can live to please Him? Will you claim this promise by faith?
Tonight we have seen three things, The Offerings, Solomon's Request and God's Reply.
Firstly The Offerings
Because Solomon devoted his life to God, the Lord offered him whatever he wanted. Is your life such that God can bless it? Are you devoted to Him?
Secondly Solomon's Request
Firstly, Solomon thanked the Lord. Then he offered his prayer with great humility. Solomon's request revealed what values Solomon lived by. He chose the spiritual over the physical. He sought to please God and the nation not himself. Do you have spiritual values? Or do you place material possessions higher on your priorities? Will you ask the Lord for wisdom to live righteously?
Thirdly God's Response
God was pleased with Solomon's prayer. He gave him what he asked for in abundance. He also gave Him material wealth and honor. Those who honor God, he honors also. Let us
Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.