Summary: Kings of Judah, Pt. 1: "Solomon" - Sermon 2
WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM (1 KINGS 3:3-28)
There couldn’t be wiser sayings than the following quotes on wisdom.
Philosopher Cicero: “The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.” In the words of Educator Elbert Hubbard, wisdom is “to know when to be generous and when firm—that is wisdom.” The philosopher Immanuel Kant distinguishes between science and wisdom, saying: “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Martin Fischer: “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”
Other sayings on wisdom include:
Norman Cousins: “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.”
Robert Green Ingersoll: “It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.”
Robert Heinlein: “Goodness without wisdom invariably accomplishes evil.”
Sam Levenson: “It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and say the opposite.”
Stephen Sigmund: “Learn wisdom from the ways of a seedling. A seedling which is never hardened off through stressful situations will never become a strong productive plant.”
Theodore Roosevelt: “Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.”
William Saroyan: “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success.”
George Christoph Lichtenberg: “One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”
Anonymous: “Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.”
Frank Whitmore: “The biggest difficulty with mankind today is that our knowledge has increased so much faster than our wisdom.”
Naguib Mahfouz: “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
Socrates: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
The new king Solomon took office by stating his devotion to God in the most dramatic fashion. He sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings (v 4) to express his devotion and thanksgiving to God. The sacrifices were continuous, extraordinary and spectacular. It was close to a 3 years’ sacrifice for a commoner who offered a sacrifice a day. The flames blazed in intensity, the smoke filled the temple, and the aroma pleased the Lord. In a night dream God gave Solomon a blank check: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you”(v 5). What would you want if you were given your heart’s desire? Would you want: gold, glory, or greatness? Do you desire fame and fortune, power and prosperity, or longevity and looks?
None of the above for Solomon, who asked for wisdom. Why? What is wisdom?
Wisdom is Comprehension: Understand Past Conditions
5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Gen. Colin Powell had risen to the top in all his professions. He occupied the nation’s highest military position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was the US Secretary of State in George W Bush’s administration, but Powell started from the very bottom. He learned a valuable lesson as a young man mopping floors at a local soft-drink bottling plant. His belief was: “No matter what you do, someone is always watching.
Powell recalled his early working experience: “I set out to be the best mop wielder there ever was. One day someone left 50 cases of cola crash to the concrete, and browns sticky foam cascaded across the floor. It was almost more than I could bear. But I kept mopping, right to left, left to right. At summer’s end, the foreman said, “You mop floors pretty good.” The next summer, he had me filling bottles. The third summer, I was deputy foreman. As I have learned, someone is always watching.” (Reader’s Digest 4/93)
Solomon wisely appreciated all that was handed to him. He began by praising God for His faithfulness and remembering His great mercy to David, his father. There are 247 occurrences of the Hebrew word “mercy” or “hesed,” but only four references to His “great mercy”(gadol hesed) were recorded in the Bible - twice in verse 6 of Solomon’s prayer and once in the corresponding 2 Chronicles 1:8 version. The verse 6 phrases “great mercy” and “great kindness” are identical in Hebrew. The only other mention of God’s great mercy outside of Solomon’s prayer is from David’s psalm in 145:8 extolling God’s mercy, paraphrased as “rich in love” by NIV. So all four Scriptural references to God’s great mercy were related to David’s life and reign. The enthroned king rightly recognized God had shown great mercy only to his father and none other. David, as readers know, at his best was probably deserving of praise, honor and mercy, but not “great mercy.” The great mercy was not only unprecedented, but also unmerited and unmatched.