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Wisdom

Date: Sep. 28, 2014

Author: Bob Henkins

1 Kings 3:1-4:34

Key Verse: 1 Kings 4:49

“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.”

What is impossible for mankind to make, mine or harvest and yet all leaders hope to possess? Wisdom. There are many people that are intelligent, but far fewer that are really wise. Some people look down on themselves thinking, “I’m not that smart and I never will be,” but it’s not about how smart you are, but how you use the intelligence that you have. Wisdom is the ability to use your intelligence successfully. In my life, I have seen very smart people do some very dumb things because they lack wisdom. If it’s impossible for us to manufacture wisdom, where does it come from? It comes from God. (v4:29) And the great thing is, he’s willing to give it to us generously. (Ja 1:5) Sadly, I think our society lacks desire for true wisdom. For example, have you ever gone to wisdom.com? What do you think you’ll find there? A web site full of wisdom? Actually it’s a site that helps you discover new ways to find the most popular bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes and the people who are there. They even have a mobile app for that. Somehow I don’t think that what God had in mind. Today’s passage is about wisdom, not how to use the app, but to see God given wisdom in action.

Let’s start by taking a look at v1-4. “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. 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.

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. ” At this point in Solomon’s life, he is about 20 years old, he already married and has a child, but after establishing his seat on the throne, one of the first things he does is marry an Egyptian princess. Politically this is a wise thing for him to do because it was a strategic marriage that solidified an alliance between Egypt and Israel. Pharaoh gave the town of Gezer to Solomon as a wedding gift (dowry). This is also a wise decision because the city happens to be near two major trade routes, a north / south route and an east / west route that went to the sea. So now these routes could be guarded on both the north and the south sides by Egypt and Israel. The passage states clearly that Solomon SHOWED his love for God through his action, through obeying God’s commands except that he was worshiping at the wrong location, the high places which were old pagan worship areas. The reason they did this was because Israel didn’t have a central place to worship. And so we find Solomon at Gideon because that’s where the tabernacle and the ancient bronze alter were, and he wanted to offer sacrifices to God.

And what happens to Solomon while he’s at Gibeon is something everyone dreams about. Imagine if, Bill Gates the richest man in the world, came up to you and asked, “I’ll give you whatever you want; just ask.” How would you respond? Remember Solomon’s only about 20 years old. What do you think a young man at that age could want? Fame? Money? Success? Mike Tyson became the heavy weight champion of the world when he was only 20. Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire when he was just 23 years old. And Michael Phelps at the age of 15 became the youngest man to set a swimming world record and by 27 he has won more gold medals (22) than anyone in history. And here was Solomon, and God, who is greater than Gates, says to him “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” That’s a lot of pressure, especially if you had to answer right away. Take a look at how Solomon responded in verses 6-9. “ 6Solomon 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?”” To me, it’s amazing to see the maturity level in such a young guy. Humanly speaking, Solomon could have thought that HE was responsible for taking the throne, because as a king, people were afraid of him and they bowed down before him. But interestingly he humbles himself before the Lord and admits that God is the cause of his rise to power. I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 19 years old, but I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing. Put yourself in Solomon’s shoes, he’s become the head of the nation that was once led by Israel’s greatest men: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and David. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. Not only that, as the leader of God’s people, he has a higher standard to live up to than other national leader because he must follow God’s commands and be an example to the people on how to live. (Dt 17:14–20) And not to mention, God considered the people of Israel to be his treasured possession, probably adds a lot of pressure because you don’t want to be the one that screws up God’s treasure. How is Solomon going to be able to do all this?

Given his situation, Solomon prefaces his request by acknowledging God’s kindness to his father David. The fact that Solomon rules Israel at all comes from God’s promise (through Nathan’s prophecy in 2 Sam 7:12) and because of his father’s faithfulness and upright in heart. This shows the beautiful relationship that existed between God and David. Solomon gets to his point and asks for a discerning heart. This phrase literally means a listening heart or an obedient heart. In the Old Testament hearing and obeying come from the same word. Only those who obey authority figures have really heard them. As I stated in the beginning, wisdom is putting your intelligence into action, but you first have to be willing to listen in order to get intelligence in the first place. Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prv 1:7) Solomon must obey the Lord by keeping God’s commands in order for his heart to be prepared to lead others. This listening to God will also enable him to listen to others. Solomon’s desire for an obedient, listening heart is based on his wish to administer justice in Israel. Justice can only emerge when the king is able to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. Justice can be quite a complicated goal, as the story about the baby shows. Thus, only knowledge of what God considers fair and unfair can guide leaders to act justly with consistency. Although Solomon has already shown political wisdom, he knows that long term wisdom and success reside where David found it, that is, in an ongoing relationship with the Lord. That’s where true wisdom comes from.

How did God respond to Solomon’s request, let’s see in verses 10-15. “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 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, 12 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. 13 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. 14 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.” 15 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.” God was pleased with Solomon’s attitude. He could have asked for any number of selfish things like; the biggest house, the prettiest wife, tons of cash, and the song, “We are the champions” says, “fame and fortune and everything that goes with it.” But instead of wealth, long life, or revenge, amazingly he sincerely desires the ability to help others. And I think this really strikes a chord with God because God not only agrees to grant his request but makes promises that go way beyond what Solomon imagined. Indeed he will have a wise and discerning heart, one that will set him apart from everyone in history. Solomon’s wisdom will exceed those who came before and after him. And even though he didn’t ask for personal gain these blessings will be his as well. Solomon will get what all kings desire and yet rarely achieve because of God’s answer to his prayer. And it’s in these verses that we find the secret to a long life, and that’s obeying God. When Solomon wakes up from this life changing dream, he seals the agreement with a celebration marked by sacrifices and a feast which show his sincerity and determination to keep the covenant. A covenant is a promise, or agreement, that two parties make with one another.

Not long after Solomon’s encounter with God does his wisdom get tested. In verses 16-28 he is asked to make a judgment that will determine the fate of two families. How many of you have heard the story of the two mothers and a baby before? This story is one of the best known in the whole Bible. This is a tragic story that makes all mothers weep. However in the end, the wisdom the Solomon displays, has all Israel in awe, for he puts his knowledge of motherly love and compassion as well as his knowledge of a selfish person’s greed to use in his decision. And the people of Israel are happy, because they have a truly just leader.

During David’s reign as king, God used him to build up and establish the young nation of Israel’s place in the region. During that period, because of war, they didn’t have time to establish the governmental structure that was needed to govern a growing nation. So Solomon uses his wisdom to organize the kingdom. In chapter 4 verses 1-19 we find a lot of names, personally Ben-Deker is my favorite. A lot of people can miss the significance of such lists and summaries. But what we come to realize from this is that the kingdom is a complex place, there is a lot of things to do to run a nation. Listed here are secretaries (maybe like the pres cabinet), army commanders, spiritual leaders, district officers, recorders, labor managers, and governors. And again we see Solomon’s wisdom in action as he creates these positions and appoints the right people to administer them. Settling local disputes like the one between the prostitutes is essential to a successful reign, but his leadership expertise must extend to broader issues.

Such an impressive government, and Israel’s growing population, required vast resources to continue operations. Only prosperity keeps people from resenting large government and new taxes. This needed income came from every corner of the kingdom. In case you’re wondering, a cor equaled about 960lbs and 90 X 960 would feed about 90,000 people and this was their daily provision. Think about the support system needed to make just the bread. The ovens, the bakers, the servers, wow. Growing up my parents would buy a half a cow and freeze it and it would last our family for about a year and they prepared 30 cows a DAY.

In all this, one thing that comes out, and that is: food was plentiful and the nation was in good spirits. During Solomon’s time their nation lived in safety and each man had his own vine and fig tree and they ate and drank and were happy. This is a small picture of heaven on earth. And I think it’s what every nation dreams to be. A kingdom that is ruled by a wise leader is a happy kingdom. Wise leaders are a blessing to be around. They are secure in their position and they mentor the others around them. On the other hand, foolish leaders are fearful and insecure, they can’t make wise decisions and people manipulate them. It’s agony living under a foolish leader. In my professional career, I have had the opportunity to experience both wise and foolish leaders. I have seen some departments grow and become successful and others shrink and become irrelevant. To live under a wise leader is like smelling the fresh air and the warmth of the sun on a beautiful afternoon. On the other hand living under a foolish leader is like being stuck in traffic with car exhaust filling our lungs. Through the passage not only do we see God’s wisdom, but we see his wonderful grace and provision. We see God’s promise fulfilled: To Abraham, his descendants as numerous as the sand on the sea shore, to Solomon to have wisdom. But more than that, we have hope because this passage actually points to Jesus. For Jesus’ wisdom is the one that is greater than Solomon. (Mt 12:42, Lk 11:31) Our God is the wisest, he is the one who gave wisdom to Solomon. And if the people of Solomon’s kingdom were happy, just think how happy the residents of God’s kingdom will be. “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21) God promises that whoever accepts his son Jesus as their Lord and Savior, will rise and be welcomed into his glorious kingdom and those who reject Jesus will rise to be condemned. Rest assured, God is one who keeps his promise. Which kingdom would you like to reside in, what kind of leader do you want?

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