Summary: Wisdom comes from God, and is a very real and practical sense of what to do, how to do it, and why it must be done...but wisdom is no guarantee that we’ll act wisely.
II Chronicles 1:1-11, Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“Ask for whatever you want Me to give you” (vs 7). If God handed you a “blank check”--if you could ask Him for anything and receive it, what would your pray for? I saw a “prayer” on a T-shirt at the mall: “Lord, let me prove to You that winning the lottery won’t ruin me.” Our character appears in our choices. We could ask God for wealth, even though it’s no guarantee of happiness. Ben Franklin remarked, “If a man could have half his wishes, he would double his troubles.” God gave Solomon the equivalent of a blank check, and he responded spiritually, not selfishly. God gave Solomon what he asked for, and more.
A bit of history: Solomon, King of Israel, and son of King David, began his rule with an act of public worship, at Gibeon, 6 miles NW of Jerusalem, where David left the Ark of the Covenant in a temporary shrine prior to its placement in Jerusalem. This is also where David held a national assembly where he, and now Solomon, spoke to Israel. The “Tent of Meeting” (vs 6) refers to the Tabernacle, Israel’s mobile sanctuary made of canvas, which was kept in Gibeon, regarded at the time as the religious center of Israel, till it was replaced by Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. I know what it’s like to worship in a tent, thanks to the Army. Whatever our sanctuary looks like, God is enthroned through the worship of His people. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps 33:12).
Solomon realized the enormity of his position and the task before him; and so he asked God for wisdom, not personal gain. He hoped to carry on the legacy of his father David. Solomon realized that God was the reason for his father David’s success. His prayer shows him to be a true son of David. Solomon knew that holding onto power wasn’t going to be easy. Although Solomon was chosen as king, his older brother Adonijah tried to claim the throne, even while David was still alive. As soon as Solomon was anointed King of Israel he had to put down usurpers to the throne and avoid civil war. Though raised in luxury in the palace, Solomon came to power with his eyes wide open, realizing the job was no picnic. His desire was to honor God and serve his people.
If you’ve ever held a position of leadership, you can understand how smart Solomon’s request was. We’re in the midst of a presidential election campaign, and I often wonder why anyone would want the job! I’m currently reading General Tommy Frank’s autobiography (American Soldier), and the enormity of the scope of a Commanding General’s responsibility has always impressed me. Franks points out, “The Army doesn’t issue wisdom when it pins on the stars.” Solomon held absolute power with no checks to his authority other than God alone. Realizing his limitations, he confessed his need for wisdom to rule properly.
In my military career, I was often called upon to offer prayer at change-of-command ceremonies. The Army recognized the weighty challenge of command and the need for divine guidance. Most incoming commanders welcomed a chaplain’s prayer in their behalf. Those in positions of authority usually see the need to go with God in leading others. Arrogant, self-sufficient people don’t get it.
Solomon understood that God had put him in office. David stated, “the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.” In the NT, Paul writes how human government is established by God (Rom 13). In vs 9 Solomon acknowledges that God has given him the kingship, and he alludes to the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen 15), that the Jewish nation will be as numerous as the sand. He realizes that he is part of that covenant, a continuation of the pledge God made with His people. The mention of God’s covenant history with Israel is a reminder that God keeps His promises.
Much of the “wisdom literature” of the Bible is written by Solomon, for good reason. He experienced doubts and despair, chronicled in Ecclesiastes; he knew first-hand about love, in Song of Songs, and he understood life, shown by his portions of the books of Psalms and Proverbs. He was touched by God’s Spirit to share with us his wealth of wisdom.
There was a condition, however, to God’s response…Solomon had to live according to God’s commands, as had David. Fulfilling his father’s last wish, Solomon gratefully built a magnificent Temple, the symbol of God’s presence, modeled after the Tabernacle, and publicly expressed his debt to God before the Ark with sacrificial offerings. Israel finally had a permanent place of worship, built by Solomon the wise.