Christmas 2, January 3, 2021
Asking the Right Questions 1 Kings 3:4–15
Have you ever noticed that much of life revolves around the choices that we make? What clothes will I wear today? Which car will I drive? Will I use the elevator or should I take the stairs? What will we eat for dinner? Who will I vote for? Which book will I read next? What channel should I watch? Many times these choices are either neutral or harmless when it comes to our spiritual lives, but there are other choices that aren’t so simple. Our choices often have consequences—some that directly impact our relationship with God. At times, we don’t even consider what those consequences might be until it’s too late. Consider the young man who is offered a job. He will probably base his choice, at least in part, on such things as salary, benefits, retirement plan, and the like. But what will he do if he is asked to fudge the books or cheat a client or begin an office romance or sabotage a fellow worker? How will he decide what to do? What will guide his choice?
Often the complaint, “God hasn’t answered my prayer,” only shows that we haven’t asked the right questions. Rather than seeking the will and blessing of the Father in heaven, our prayers have sought our own limited vision. Were God to grant such requests, harm—not good—would come to ourselves and others. But like Jesus Christ, the Son of David, David’s son Solomon asks the right questions and, by the grace of God, receives God’s good answer. Solomon seeks first the good of God’s kingdom—whose foundation is Christ himself—and all other blessings follow.
- As Solomon was born relatively late in David’s life, at this time he may still have been a young man, perhaps around twenty years of age. Certainly, his youth is an issue at this point of his kingship. David’s charge to Solomon on his deathbed in ch 2 is especially important, encouraging him to be a wise and faithful king. The wisdom he requests and is granted is directly responsible for the splendor of the early (godly) portion of his rule.
- Revelation through dreams was not a common occurrence, but was certainly not unheard of either. Several instances are recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. If there was any doubt that Solomon was the rightful king according to God, this encounter proved it. Solomon was now assured of God’s presence and blessing.
“Steadfast love khesed. . . given him a son.”
- This is a term that carries such enormous significance
- Yahweh is said to be abounding in khesed (Ex 34:6) and to keep it (1 Ki 8:23).
- Yahweh’s khesed is the source of salvation for all nations (Ps 98:2–3) and is what moves him to forgive (Num 14:19; Ps 51:1; Micah 7:18–20).
- Particularly germane to the present text are two passages (2 Chr 6:42; Is 55:3) that use khesed to refer to God’s covenant with David (2 Sam 7:1–17; 1 Chr 17:1–15).
- Yahweh’s promise to David that from his line of descendants would come one who would have an eternal rule is foundational for the Israelite expectation of the coming of a Messiah from David’s line.
- The New Testament makes so much of Christ’s descent from the line of David (for example, Lk 2:4, 11 from the recently read Christmas Midnight Gospel) as a way of indicating that Jesus was this promised one from David’s line.
- “Faithfulness . . . righteousness . . . uprightness.” Collectively, these terms describe David as a man who, through faith, received God’s gift of forgiveness and righteousness and who demonstrated that faith through upright living.
- As the immediate descendant of David in the line from which Jesus would be born, Solomon is a sort of “first installment” of the fulfillment of the promise to David.
- His peaceful rule (his name [Shelomoh] is a play on the Hebrew word for peace [shalom]) and especially his request for wisdom point us to the one who completed the promise to David and who himself displayed such godly wisdom in today’s Gospel.
“I do not know how to carry out my duties,”
- Denotes the full range of life’s activities outside and inside the home. It is nicely rendered by NIV as “carry out my duties.”
- Solomon acknowledges both the size and greatness of the people he is to govern and his inexperience and youth. He humbles himself before the Lord, claiming to be nothing but a servant and little child. Lo’ ’eda‘ tse’t wabo’, is literally “I don’t know how to go out or come in.” (humility)
“your people whom you have chosen.”
- Solomon’s request has to do not only with wisdom for ruling a political entity but also with his obligation as Israelite king to promote right faith and worship.
lev shome‘a, “a hearing or listening heart.”
- This is much more than a request for the proverbial wisdom “to listen twice as much as we speak because we have two ears and only one mouth.”
- This is a godly listening, to listen first to God and his Word and then to act.
- This request is for spiritual discernment.
- True wisdom and understanding come from God alone.
“Understanding,” “discern,” and “wise.”
- God created all things by wisdom (Ps 104:24; Prov 3:19–20) and imparted wisdom to his creation so that all things operate according to the wisdom the Creator gave them (Job 28:20, 23–27; 38:36–37).
- Sin corrupted the goodness (the wisdom) of God’s creation so that the wisdom of God is now hidden to human wisdom—so that the Almighty must now reveal wisdom to us (Prov 2:6).
- This wisdom is restored through faith, often described as “the fear of the Lord” (Prov 9:10).
- To possess wisdom in this way is to have the gift of eternal salvation (Is 33:5–6). Such wisdom becomes our own through Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:22–30).
- When a person possesses this wisdom, he or she is equipped and empowered to live a life of wisdom, which means living in a manner in keeping with the will of God the Creator (Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prov 29:3).
- This life of wisdom includes “common sense” (note all the “common sense advice” contained in many of the aphorisms in the Book of Proverbs, such as in Prov 11:2; 13:10).
- Wisdom is a very practical aptitude. Wisdom is needed for getting things done in the right way in the real world.
- Solomon’s request, therefore, has to do both with “religious” and “earthly” matters.
- He wants to be able to deal with the real, practical, worldly matters that will come his way as the political ruler of a nation. Even more important, he wants the wisdom to carry out his calling as an Israelite king—namely, to lead Israel, the people of God, in right faith, right worship, and right living.
- God’s reaction to the prayer of Solomon is a foreshadowing of the words of Jesus in Mt 6:33 “Seek first his [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.
- Solomon is presented here as a man of devout faith and therefore as the sort of godly king that he ought to be.
- The marriage of Solomon to the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was certainly for the purpose of economic power and political stability.
- While the practice was common in ancient times, it was in direct opposition to God’s command that his people not intermarry with the pagan nations among whom they settled.
- This would eventually lead to Solomon’s spiritual downfall (ch 11).
- It seemed so harmless to marry the beautiful women of the pagan nations, but with them came their gods and idols. Soon the worship of the one true God would be diluted and distorted; Yahweh would be just one more deity among many.
- Pagan worship at such high places was often associated with the fertility cults of the various Canaanite gods. The problem was often a mixture of true worship and pagan worship, that is, syncretism.
We can’t go back in time and choose all over again, but there is something we can do with the guilt, shame, and aftermath of our choices gone astray. Like Solomon we can humble ourselves before the Lord. Christ invites us to bring our sin and problems to him. “Cast your cares [and bad choices] on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps 55:22).
Now is the time for a spiritual heart checkup. What kind of choices and decisions have we been making, or more important, what has been our motivation for our decisions and actions?
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (ESV)
We all knew the sermon was going to come out this way, didn’t we. The things of God are what really matter in life. But it is true. Only what Christ has done for us will last until eternity—and that is what matters! Amen.