Give me wisdom!

Meditation on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Merritt Island Presbyterian Church

Aug. 19, 2018

To see the video of this sermon, click here.

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10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.  12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established…  Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.  The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”  And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, 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 today.  And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.   And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this,   and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.  13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you.  14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

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Our children and youth performing arts ministries got off to a great start this week, with some new children joining us. We had crafts  and auditions for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever  and Wrapping All the Way.

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My most special time with Kids Klub and One Purpose Productions comes when we gather in a circle for caring and sharing. They share about bee stings and lost or wiggly teeth. Taking dance lessons and starting school. Concerns for sick friends, siblings, parents or grandparents. Older brothers and sisters going off to college. Parents on long business trips or deployed in the military. I listen carefully with an open heart, ready to respond as their pastor. Because even though most of the children and youth are not members of our church, the Lord has brought them to us so that we would minister to them!

When one young boy, his first day at Kids Klub, shared how he couldn’t sleep at night, I asked why. He said he was afraid of the dark– that aliens might come. I told him how I used to be scared of the dark when I was a kid. But then I learned that monsters and aliens aren’t real. His sister, sitting on the other side of me, was listening intently. She looked up at me and echoed,  “Not real?”  “No,” I said, shaking my head. And I felt prompted to add,  “We never have to be afraid of anything because Jesus is always with us.”

It was God’s gift of His wisdom for that moment to really listen to a child, with an open, loving heart, and be prompted to speak a word of peace.

 

Solomon’s story teaches the importance of seeking and using God’s wisdom. The Lord gives Solomon, says 1 Kings 4:29,  “very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore.”  “He was wiser than anyone else,” says 1 Kings 4:31-34, and “his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations.” Solomon was like a rockstar in his time, composing more than a thousand songs and 3,000 proverbs. But he also had a scientific mind. He would  “speak of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish.  People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon…”

He wisely judged the case of two women who gave birth in the same house on the same night, but when one woman’s son died, she switched the babies while the other woman slept and tried to pass off the other woman’s son as her own. Solomon infamously said, “Bring me a sword,” and, after they did, he said, “Divide the living boy in two; give half to one and half to the other.” The mother whose son was alive begged the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly, do not kill him!” Her child was restored to her.

But like all the other kings of ancient Israel, including his father, David, Solomon didn’t always live in obedience to God. He isn’t a perfect model of wisdom, not like Jesus, “who has become for us wisdom from God,” says Paul in 1 Cor. 1:30, “that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

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Solomon is, after all, just a human being with all the temptations of wealth and power. That’s the whole point of this book, says Dr. Walter Brueggemann,  one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades.

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Brueggemann says though 1 Kings seems to be just a history of the kings of Israel,  it actually serves a theological purpose; it “delegitimates the kings” and shows how they “have, in fact, forfeited their authority and are not really kings.   Thus, the book should be named with a question mark of incredulity—“Kings???”

Our reading begins when Solomon is young in his reign, and we already see his weakness. He loves many “foreign women.” Solomon makes a political alliance with Egypt by marrying the Pharaoh’s daughter, bringing her to the “city of David,”  which, at this time, is Jerusalem, not “Bethlehem,” as the gospel of Luke tells us in the story of Christ’s birth.

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He goes to Gibeon, a Canaanite city about 6 km north of Jerusalem,  to offer a “thousand burnt offerings” on the altar in the high places.”

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Because this comes right before telling us how he loves the Lord, we might assume that this reveals his devotion to God, but  high places in the Old Testament were  “often associated with apostasy” Brueggemann says. Solomon will love, along with the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women–all nations the Lord had told Israel from which not to enter into marriage, “For they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods.” And that’s what happens. He ends up worshiping idols, along with his God.

But don’t miss that he seeks the Lord in the right way at the very beginning of his reign—and for the right reasons. He comes to the Lord humbly in a vision God gives him. After God invites him to speak, he says, “I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” And don’t miss God’s grace and steadfast love—the same grace and love the Lord has for us! God blesses him with wisdom, prosperity and long life, despite his sin. God blesses Israel for his humble faith and spiritual request so that he may live out God’s calling to him.

Wisdom brings justice, peace, and prosperity to His reign in Jerusalem for 40 years; 480 years after Israel fled captivity in Egypt, Solomon began to build the House of the Lord, the Temple.

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Judah and Israel were “as numerous as the sand by the sea; they ate and drank and were happy.”  Solomon reigned “over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the border of Egypt.”

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After Kids Klub this week, I began to think how wisdom may be one of the most undervalued spiritual gifts— though it isn’t the greatest, which is love, says 1 Cor. 13. I urge you to seek God for wisdom to live out your calling every day.  As Jer. 29:11 says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not your harm, to give you a future with hope.”

James 1:5 promises that God will not deny our request: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

 But the problem with wisdom is that we have trouble recognizing it. What the world calls “wisdom” isn’t the wisdom of God.  The wisdom of this world is deceptive and destructive, at odds with the things of God. Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:19,  “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.’” Isaiah 5:21 says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”

        God’s wisdom doesn’t depend on human situations or worldly possessions. Ecclesiastes 2:26 says, “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.” God’s wisdom is granted to those with humility and  a heart-felt, genuine faith, who love the Lord and desire to use His gifts to serve and bring goodness to the world.

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James 3:17 says, “Wisdom comes to the humble, those who love peace and are merciful. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

So let us come humbly, friends, as little children, to approach the throne of grace. Let us ask for God’s wisdom so that we may work for peace and justice and reveal God’s Reign.  As Psalm 37:30-31 says, “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak justice. The law of their God is in their hearts; their steps do not slip.”

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We ask for wisdom so that, together, we may walk the paths the Lord wants us to take. And not fall, as Solomon did, into idolatry. Let us walk with confidence, trusting in Jesus, looking to Him who has become for us wisdom from God, righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace, for sending Christ, when we fell into sin, to become for us your wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption. Lord, we all cry out to you, “Give us wisdom.” Lead us to do your loving work of peace and justice. Stir us to reach out to our community and share your grace and the hope of our salvation through your Son. Bless our ministries, especially those to children and young families. Bless our teachers—staff and volunteers. Raise up more leads among us and build Your Church. Empower us all to serve with energy intelligence, imagination and love, relying on your mercy and rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit as we witness to your present and coming Reign. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

 

 

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