Solomon’s kingship had just been secured. After a little political intrigue and the successful removal of a self-appointed pseudo-king, David’s son took the helm of leadership in Israel. And, like his father, Scripture tells us that Solomon loved God and walked according to his Word (1 Kings 3:3).
We are also told of a time when God visited the new leader and made him a grand offer: “Ask what I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:5). This wasn’t a ploy or a game. God meant what he said, and he was ready to give Solomon whatever he asked for.
What Would You Ask For?
If you had God’s ear and you were confident that he would grant your request, what would you ask for? A well-funded portfolio with lifetime dividend payouts? A spouse? More leisure time? A better job? A home? A new roommates? Better health? A fresh wardrobe? More opportunities to travel? Long life? More friends? An end to family strife? Altogether different circumstances?
In the right proportion and context, the desire for these things may not be wrong. The problem with each, however, is that if they were fulfilled, they would quickly become a liability rather than a blessing because of what you didn’t ask for.
What Solomon Asked For
After God made Solomon his grand offer, Solomon extolled God for his steadfast love but then confessed that he was without the requisite skill to manage a nation. Although he was likely around forty years old, Solomon sensed his inadequacy so acutely that he felt like a “little child” who was unable to accomplish the most basic duties (1 Kings 3:7). Tasked with national leadership, Solomon felt the weight of his responsibility to rule God’s people with justice and equity. So what did he ask for? “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people” (1 Kings 3:9).
Solomon asked God for “and understanding mind” and the ability to discern between “good and evil.” In other words, Solomon asked God for wisdom. What did God think of Solomon’s request? “It pleased the LORD that Solomon had asked this” (1 Kings 3:10), and he gave Solomon what he requested.
God is pleased when his people ask for wisdom. Why? To answer this question, it is helpful to define what wisdom is. I think J. I. Packer provides us with an excellent answer. Wisdom is “the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” Wisdom is the Spirit-endowed ability to see life as it really is and to aim for and choose that which most glorifies God and provides my neighbor and myself with the greatest blessing.
Wisdom, therefore, pervades every aspect of your life, from your finances to your hopes for marriage to your daily work to how you use your words and control your temper. God is pleased when we ask for wisdom because wisdom enables us to rightly govern our lives.
But you might object to this story about Solomon’s request for skill in national leadership because he was a king of Israel and your situation…well, let’s just say you’re not a king of Israel.
Feeling Our Desperation
Point taken. But it is still true that God has entrusted you with many responsibilities for which you will someday, either in the near or distant future, be held accountable. Granted, these tasks may not relate to national governance, but they are important nonetheless, and you need skill with which to manage them.
The reason why a request for wisdom is not the first impulse of our hearts is because we don’t feel our desperation like Solomon did. When he looked out over Jerusalem, pondered the high and holy standard of God’s law, and assessed his own ability to fulfill the calling of king, he felt woefully inadequate. He knew he needed wisdom more than anything else in the world.
You may not be the king of a large nation, but you are a Christian, a church member, an employee or employer, a brother, a sister, an aunt or uncle; you are a citizen, a roommate, a friend, a small group leader, a son or a daughter, a spouse and a parent. You have money, resources, and spiritual gifts you must steward and time you must redeem. You have a gospel to share and Scripture to study. You have sin to put to death and cultural issues to understand and about which you must speak clearly. In other words, you are just as desperate as Solomon was.
Happily, God is just as pleased to grant his people wisdom as he was when Solomon made his request 3000 years ago. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5; see also Prov 2:1-15). So, listen to Solomon’s counsel, and make wisdom what you most often ask for.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom and whatever you get, get insight.Proverbs 4:7
How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.Proverbs 16:16