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Prayer for Wisdom

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A divine principle insured that the prayer for wisdom was answered not with wisdom alone but with wealth, power, and length of days.  No blessing is enjoyed till exercised in the teeth of temptation to abuse it.  Solomon received the gift but failed the test.

Wisdom is keeping God's truth in your head and his love in your heart.

It characterized Solomon in this rather famous 3rd chapter of 1 Kings.  Of course, one wonders what happened, since we know that Solomon eventually drifts away from the

Solomon:  Impressive Beginning, Dreadful End

 

 

1 Kings 3:3 (ESV)
3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father…

A wise commentator on 1 Kings, Alec Motyer, adds No blessing is enjoyed til exercised in the teeth of temptation to abuse it.  Solomon received the gift but failed the test.  That’s later.

We find ourselves in chapter 3 of 1 Kings.  David has died; Solomon is now the King.  Chapter 2 describes how Solomon solidified his position as his rivals are dealt with, brutally in some cases.  1 Kings 2:46 (ESV)
46…. So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

Chapter 3 begins with Solomon’s alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, by marrying his daughter.  This wasn’t forbidden.  Jewish men were forbidden to marry Canaanite wives.  And the reference: only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.

could be seen as negative; on the other hand, the Lord met Solomon there at Gibeon – a town just north of Jerusalem where the offerings were made prior to the building of the Temple.

What is of particular importance in this chapter of the prayer of Solomon, and the answer that the Lord gave Solomon.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having said after the Constitutional Convention - We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.

What we have in 3.1-15 is Solomon’s Prayer For Wisdom

Point One:  God’s Generosity:  True Incentive to Prayer

The first point is simple and clear. 

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us

Look at 1 Kings 3:5 (ESV)
5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, "Ask what I shall give you."

 

Tell me what I should give you."

Ask what  you wish me to give  you."

Seriously, would you do that with your children or grandchildren?  It sounds like Genie in the Bottle –

But look at this: 

1 Kings 3:13-14 (ESV)
13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days."

The Lord tells Solomon that he will give him what he has NOT asked for. 

We are familiar with the phrase, the living God; what we have here is the giving God

This is the basis of prayer – God is generous.

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  Laborers hired the first of the day are paid the same as those hired the last hour of the day.  When asked by those who were hired in the morning why others hired at the end of the day were paid the same, the landlord said

Matthew 20:15 (ESV)
15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?'

Or how about James 1:5 (ESV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Or Matthew 7:11 (ESV)
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

                                     

George Whitfield, the great 18th century Anglican evangelist so impressed a woman by his buoyant demeanor that she said, “Mr. Whitefield,’ she exclaimed, ‘was so cheerful that it tempted me to become a Christian.’  So, God tempts us to pray by his eager urgency to lavish good gifts upon us.

John Newton wrote

Come, my soul thy suit prepare

Jesus loves to answer prayer.

And even assuming verses 1 & 2 are negative and Solomon stumbles out of the gate, so to speak, that doesn’t mean God isn’t what he is – that is generous beyond our deserving.  We sometimes think our track record of non-prayer or of sin makes us unworthy to ask the Lord for what we need – and we are right!  But, he will still answer our prayer, not because we are worthy or good, but that he is generous.

Now, of course, there is another side to prayer – that is prayer responsibility and faith on our part – but what is emphasized here is the sheer generosity of God, who

James 1:17 (ESV)
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Point Two:  God’s Faithfulness – Basis of Prayer

Look at 1 Kings 3:6-8 (ESV)
6 And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude.

Solomon does not begin with his request; he begins in the past.  When we pray the Lord’s Prayer – before we ask for anything, we begin by saying, our Father – who art in heaven – that is this is the God we are praying to.  If you look at any of our collects - last week’s for instance, notice the pattern: 

O Lord, who never failest to help and govern those whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; Keep us…

 

He then begins his prayer recalling God’s faithfulness in the past to his Father, David.  He Solomon, in fact, is evidence of God’s faithfulness since he promised David in

2 Samuel 7:16 (ESV)
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.' "

 

And if you look in verse 8, this is an illusion to Abraham and the promises the Lord made to him that he would be the father of many nations – a great multitude.  And now Solomon is seeing that prayer fulfilled.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

                              Proverbs 10:7 (ESV)
7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.

I always remember the disappointment I felt when a good friend of ours – who served as kind of uncle to me – made all sorts of promises to me – places he would take me – and he didn’t.  In fact, he became ill and died not very long after that – but I was too young to understand that he was a mere mortal. 

But God keeps his promises – he is dependable, and we can go to him any time, in any circumstance in prayer – and ask him for what we need.  Yes, of course it is true that he answers only those prayers which are in line with his will – but nevertheless, he encourages us to ask, seek and knock.

Look at today’s collect

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Point Three:  Solomon’s Request

And what does Solomon ask for?  A man asked his young son what he wanted from the Lord – and he said, Astroturf…sounds like us.

Solomon, inexperienced in the job he was about to take on although I am but a little child.  I do not know how to go out or come in (1 Kings 3.7)

No, he asks for the leadership skill necessary to lead the people whom God had put under his charge. 

He asks for an understanding mind in order to rule and to discern.

This is exactly what the apostle Paul prays for the Christians in Rome.

Romans 12:1-3 (ESV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

His anxiety over his people is what drives his request.  Not how may I enhance my life; but how may I make God’s people secure?

Point 4:  Pleasing God

1 Kings 3:10 (ESV)
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

 

One commentator notes that the goal of prayer, indeed the goal of worship should be to please the Lord. 

1 Thessalonians 4:1 (ESV)
1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

The chapter ends with a display of wisdom as two prostitutes approach Solomon about possession of a child.  Two women gave birth 3 days apart; one woman inadvertently killed her child by suffocating it.  The accuser alleges that her companion’s baby died, and then pilfered the living baby from the accuser while she slept, placed her dead baby in the accuser’s arms, and insisted the pirated infant was her own. 

Solomon solves the case by calling for a sword and ordered the child to be bisected and half given to each woman.  Then, he could tell who the real mother was, for she would be the one who cried the most, since it was her child.  And so all Israel was impressed.

Summary

As we continue reading 1 Kings, we will see indications of the author’s ambivalence about Solomon.  Things began with bang, but the ending of the story will be disastrous. 

Yet the narrative about Solomon points beyond itself.  The vocabulary of 1 Kings 3 – judge; discern, wisdom recur in the description of the coming Davidic king in Isaiah 11:2-4 (ESV)
2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

The wisdom, discernment, and justice of Solomon point to the One who will outstrip Solomon, to one in whom are hidden all the reassures of wisdom and knowledge, and the one who today reigns from heaven – the Lord Jesus himself.  And this king will never ordain or order anything in our circumstances, except what is in line with wisdom at its highest and best.

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