Summary: The gift of wisdom.
ASK WHAT I SHALL GIVE THEE
After his sordid affair with Bathsheba - and his engineering of her husband’s murder - David had taken Bathsheba as his wife: but the child of their infidelity had died. Now, upon the death of David, one born within the bounds of their marriage, Solomon, ascended the throne: “and his kingdom was established greatly” (1 Kings 2:12). The past was forgiven, and a kingly line was established (Matthew 1:6), which would reach all the way down to ‘Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ’ (Matthew 1:16). This is nothing short of the grace and covenant mercy of the LORD!
Solomon started well: “he loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father” (1 Kings 3:3a). Yet there is a warning signal, which would become a motif throughout the books of Kings: “only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places” (1 Kings 3:3b). Evidently, however, since the Temple was not yet built (cf. 1 Kings 3:2), the LORD tolerated this for the time being. The language suggests that Solomon habitually offered lavish sacrifices in Gibeon, and it was there that the LORD first appeared to him (1 Kings 3:3-5a).
It is interesting that Solomon had the word of the LORD come to him (cf. 1 Kings 6:11), like he was a prophet (cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3 &c.). Later, at the dedication of the Jerusalem Temple, he will pray and benedict like a priest (cf. 1 Kings 8:14; 1 Kings 8:22; 1 Kings 8:55). Jesus ultimately combines the three offices of prophet, priest, and king in His own Person; and we (Christians) are a kingdom of priests in Him, speaking (witnessing) on His behalf.
“Ask what I shall give thee,” offered the LORD (1 Kings 3:5b). We should take up these offers of the LORD: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ (Matthew 7:7). Jesus said, ‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full’ (John 16:24).
Solomon began his response by reflecting upon the LORD’s mercy and covenant kindness towards David. Humbly, he acknowledged that he, like David his father, is but a servant. In fact, he acknowledged that he is “a little child” in that “I know not how to go out or come in” among such an innumerable multitude of “thy” people (1 Kings 3:6-8).
Ministers should take note here: it is God’s church, not ours. David did make one disastrous attempt to number them, as if they were his own (2 Samuel 24:10). Certainly, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is a ‘number which no man can number’ (Revelation 7:9).
“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart (literally, a listening heart) to judge THY people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this THY so great people?” (1 Kings 3:9). Sometimes the size of the task might all but overwhelm us, especially when we consider our own smallness. But against that attitude, we must lay hold upon the greatness of our God!
It pleases God when we pray unselfishly. Rather than long life for himself, riches for himself, or the life of his enemies, Solomon had asked for himself “understanding to discern judgment” (1 Kings 3:10-11).
Interestingly, however, “length of days” is conditional (1 Kings 3:14; cf. Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3). The covenant is sure (2 Samuel 7:12-16), but covenant obedience is the condition for “length of days.”
How long will we go limping between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21)? What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole wide world but then loses his soul (Mark 8:36)? Will the LORD alone be our portion and our cup (Psalm 16:5)?
Will we choose to sit at the feet of Jesus, with Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:42)? Will we accept the free gift of righteousness through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22)? Will we receive fulness of life in Him (John 10:10)?
Lord, grant us wisdom to see our need of thee, and help us to discern our inability to attain unto thee but through Jesus Christ. Amen.