The Promise of Wisdom
1 Kings 3:1-15
August 9, 2014 | Brian Bill
Life is much clearer when viewed through God’s perspective, isn’t it? The wisdom we run into from the world is fuzzy and sometimes a bit funny. Recently a survey was done with a group of kids. This is how they responded to the question, “What do you think wisdom is?”
- Rocky, age 9, said, “Wisdom is wearing a hat when feeding seagulls.”
- 9-year-old Carol commented, “Never ask for anything that costs more than $5 when your parents are doing taxes.”
- Children should be seen and not…spanked or grounded.
- A penny saved is…not much. Financial Peace University would say otherwise.
- If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse.
- Never try to baptize a cat. BTW, some of you have been saved but you’re not baptized yet. That’s your next step. Pick up a copy of “Taking the Plunge” in the lobby.
- Nicholas, age 11, spoke from experience: “Never bug a pregnant mom.”
- And, Heather, a seasoned teenager said, “When your dad is mad and asks, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.”
The Bible is full of wise sayings that are not fuzzy at all. One of my favorites is found in Proverbs 26:17: “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” It sounds like he learned that lesson the hard way! Here’s another one that continues the canine theme that is a bit more graphic from Proverbs 26:11: “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
While we can benefit from some of the wisdom that whirls around us, to be truly wise we need the wisdom that comes from above. James 3:17: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” Our topic today is the promise of wisdom. Here’s the main idea: God will show us what to do when we don’t know what to do.
Please turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings 3. Solomon is the king of Israel and is known throughout the world as being the wisest guy who ever lived. He is the author of most of the Proverbs, but is also somewhat of a tragic figure. He was very wise but also did some really stupid things. We get some insight into his character in the first four verses.
1. He was politically compromised (1).
In order to extend his kingdom and be at peace with those around him, Solomon was adept at political compromise. Look at verse 1: “Now Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and married Pharaoh’s daughter; then he brought her to the City of David…” While this was a common practice back then, this alliance led to Solomon’s soul becoming entangled. One of the most heartbreaking verses in the Bible is found in 1 Kings 11:4: “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” The Bible is clear that a believer must not marry an unbeliever for this very reason (see 2 Corinthians 6:14).
2. He was personally conflicted (2-3).
His political compromise led to Solomon becoming personally conflicted. We see in verse 2 that the people were sacrificing on the “high places,” which is a reference to the sites where the Canaanites worshipped their gods. This was not where worship was to take place for followers of God. Deuteronomy 12:4-5: “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go.”
We love the Lord except that (fill in the blank)
I want you to notice how conflicted Solomon was. According to 1 Kings 3:3, he loved the Lord and demonstrated that love by walking according to the statutes of his father David. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, there’s more to Solomon. He loved the Lord but notice the next two words: “except that…” I think this describes a lot of us today. We love the Lord except that we gossip. We love the Lord except that we mistreat our spouse. We love God except that we hold grudges. We love the Lord except that (fill in the blank). I think most Christians have an “except that” in their lives as either a blind spot they can’t see or a fatal flaw that they are all too familiar with.
3. He was profoundly committed (4).
To borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, Solomon was “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” He loved the Lord and yet he compromised and he was conflicted. Verse 4 shows us that he was also profoundly committed: “Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” He got this one right as he at least worshipped at the place where the Tabernacle was located. And he killed a thousand cattle in sacrifice to God. Can you imagine how long this must have taken? For Solomon to sacrifice this many animals shows how much he adored the Almighty.
I want you to notice that it was after Solomon had worshipped and sacrificed that God spoke to him. Sometimes we wonder why God seems so far away and God says, “I’m not the one who moved. Put me first by offering me the sacrifice of praise and then you’ll sense my presence once again and hear my voice as I speak to you through my Word.” Listen, if you unplug from regular times of meeting with God, you will eventually unravel.
God then asks Solomon the question that would literally change his life in verse 5: “Ask! What shall I give you?” How would you answer this question? What is it that you really want? What do you dream about or long for? If God gave you a blank check, how would you fill it in? Most of us would want good health, a better relationship, or increased income or maybe more power. Friends, God will show us what to do when we don’t know what to do.
Let’s look at Solomon’s prayer and draw some lessons from it for our own lives.
1. Recall God’s work.
When we come to verse 6, we see that Solomon began his answer to the Lord the right way by recalling God’s work: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.” He recalls God’s kindness and honors the memory of his own dad. Solomon gives praise to God for the fact that he’s even sitting on the throne. He knows it was not because of his might, but because of God’s mercy.
2. Recognize your own weaknesses.
In verses 7-8, Solomon calls himself both a servant and a child. And he is overwhelmed with the task before him, recognizing his inadequacy and ineptitude: “But I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen…” This is often a missing ingredient in our prayers. We must own up for our own weaknesses, and remind ourselves that we are but servants of the true king, children of the Father, and we can do nothing apart from Him. After recalling God’s work when you pray, own up to your own sinful thoughts, words and actions. When you’re overwhelmed, tell Him about it.
3. Request God’s Wisdom.
Remember that Solomon could have asked for anything at all. Given all his options, there’s one request that stands head and shoulders above everything else. What he asks for is startling in its simplicity. Notice verse 9: “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” The phrase “understanding heart” can be translated, “a hearing heart.” Solomon wanted a heart that hears from the Holy One so that he would have the ability to see issues clearly and distinguish between right and wrong. In short, he wanted wisdom.
A number of prayer walks took place this week around high schools in the Quad Cities, with more to be scheduled this week. Bettendorf, Moline, Quad Cities Christian and Rocky have been prayed for so far. This past Sunday afternoon over 20 of us walked around Rock Island High School and interceded for students, staff and the community. We prayed that Christian students and staff would live on mission for God, that they would show up and share their faith, and live humbly and honestly in the hallways. We prayed that students would grow in wisdom. We asked God to give wisdom to teachers and the administration. We asked God to send revival to the campus. And we asked that souls would be saved. This week I called the Rocky and Bettendorf principals to let them know that they were prayed for.
As you may know, the pastoral team meets every Tuesday for planning and prayer. During our prayer time we did things a bit differently this week as each of us walked around the building or neighborhood and brought your requests before the Lord. I also used this time to pray for our neighbors surrounding our property. I also prayed for wisdom for the leadership. When I’m out running and come by a church I pray for the pastor and ask God to send an outpouring of His Spirit upon congregations. God promises to hear us when we cry out to Him. He will show us what to do when we don’t know what to do.
When Solomon’s request rises up to heaven, he receives two responses:
- God is pleased. I like this paraphrase of verse 10: “God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response.” If you want to delight God, decide to ask Him for wisdom.
- God provides. In verses 11-15, God tells Solomon that He will grant him “a wise and understanding heart.” Turn over to 1 Kings 4:29: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.” And because he asked for that which pleased God, Solomon was given wisdom and much more than he dreamed of: riches, honor, and the possibility of a long life. That reminds me of what we learned last weekend from Jeremiah 33:3 that God will reveal great and mighty things that we do not know when we cry out to Him. This is a wonderful example of what happens when we put God’s purposes first as Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
When Solomon awoke from his divine dream, verse 15 tells us that he did a couple things right away.
- He gave to God. Determined this time to do things the right way, Solomon journeyed to Jerusalem, where he stood before the Ark of the Covenant, and “offered up burnt offerings…” He gave what he had because he knew it wasn’t his.
- He gathered with God’s people. At the conclusion of the sacrifices, he shared some prime rib with the people as they fellowshipped and feasted together: “Then he made a feast for all his servants.” Solomon worshipped God and he was in community with others. Likewise, God wants us to give to Him and to gather with people who praise Him.
It’s not enough simply to be educated and have knowledge, as important as education is. We also need wisdom, which is the ability to use the knowledge that we have. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “wise” is used to describe people who are adept at working with their hands. Those who have wisdom have the ability to face life honestly and to live it so that God’s purposes are fulfilled in their lives. Wisdom is not theoretical but practical. A wise person does not just say wise words, he or she is skillful at living life to its fullest
Here are five pathways to seeking wisdom from the Scriptures.
1. Develop the Fear of the Lord
Proverbs 1:7 is both the theme of Proverbs and the key that unlocks the way to wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The main emphasis of the entire Bible is the fear of the Lord. In this verse we see that there are two classes of people: those who fear the Lord, and the fools who do not. The beginning of knowledge refers to its origin or principal part. The first lesson we must learn in the school of wisdom is to develop a proper view of God.
A fool is not just someone who is a couple bricks short of a load, or one whose elevator does not go to the top floor. A fool is not somebody who is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. In Proverbs, the fool is the one who doesn’t follow God’s ways. He’s the one who knows the right thing to do but instead does the opposite, or simply does nothing. 1:32 says that the “complacency of fools will destroy them.” In the New Testament, the contrast is between the believer and the unbeliever, the saved and the lost, those in the light and those who walk in darkness.
It’s good for us to be reminded that everything’s about God, not about us. Martin Luther’s great cry was to “let God be God.” A.W. Tozer said that to know God is to fear Him and to be “stunned” by the splendor of His presence. Someone has said that the common creed among many Christians is “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” which is essentially is a self-centered worldview in which personal happiness is the highest goal and God’s job is to make sure it happens for me. Friends, God is not there just to meet our needs. We are here to bow before His supremacy in an attitude of holy fear so that we will worship Him with our lives and our lips. When we do, He will give us wisdom.
Most of us could stand to tremble more in the presence of God. He’s not just the big buy in the sky, or the man upstairs. He’s the Creator, the Judge of all Mankind, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Lord of Hosts, the Most High God, the Consuming Fire, the Majesty on High, the Potentate, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the Almighty who is holy, holy, holy. And He is zealous and jealous for you.
Fearing God is really a synonym for worship
When we truly fear the Lord, we will recognize that He is the Creator and we are the created. He is the master and we are His servants. He is the Father and we are His children. The phrase “fear of the Lord” literally means to, “live before the face of God.” It’s the idea of being so in awe of God that I long to obey Him. Fearing God is really a synonym for worship. It involves a consciousness of being in the presence of the Almighty, a thrilling sense of privilege, which results in an overflow of awe and admiration. You can tell that you fear God when His opinion about your life matters more than anything else.
2. Devote Yourself to the Word of God
If you want wisdom, first develop a fear of God. Second, devote yourself to the Word of God. Psalm 19:7: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 119:130: The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. 2 Timothy 3:15: “…The holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation…”
Did you hear about the congressman from Mississippi who sent a Bible to all 535 members of the U.S. Congress this week? Steven Palazzo included a letter with each copy that read in part: “On a daily basis, we contemplate policy decisions that impact America’s future. Our staffs provide us with policy memos, statistics, and recommendations that help us make informed decisions. However, I find that the best advice comes through meditating on God’s Word.”
Friend, there is no way to become wise apart from the Word of God! It doesn’t matter how smart someone is, if he or she does not know the Bible, they are wisdom deficient. Here are some practical things you could do in order to become more devoted to the Word of God.
- Read one chapter from Proverbs every day. Since there are 31 chapters, you could simply read the chapter that corresponds with the day of the month. For many years Billy Graham has read a chapter from Proverbs and five Psalms every day. When you read, discipline yourself to write down one verse from the chapter and meditate on it throughout the day.
- Bring your Bible to church each week. As you follow along in your own copy of the Scriptures, either on your mobile device or in a Bible you carry, you will get more out of the sermons and be more motivated to do your own study during the week.
- Begin reading 1 Peter. Our next sermon series will be called, “Living Hope: Seeking Holiness in a Hostile World” as we go verse by verse through the letter of 1 Peter beginning this fall. It would be good for you to get a head start.
- Plug into a weekly Bible Study, ABF or Life Group this fall. We have a couple men’s groups (a breakfast next Saturday) and women’s groups. We’re offering a “Single and Parenting” class on Wednesday nights, AWANA is kicking off soon and our high school group meets on Sunday nights. In addition, we have over 10 Adult Bible Fellowship Groups that meet from 9:30 to 10:30 every Sunday and Life Groups that meet during the week. Beth and I will be leading a group for new believers and others new to Edgewood on Sunday mornings beginning September 14th.
3. Determine to Get Wisdom
After developing the fear of the Lord and devoting yourself to the Word of God, the next step is to determine to get wisdom. In order to get it, we must desire it with all our might. Listen to the action verbs in Proverbs 2:1-5: “My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”
Three times Solomon writes: “if you” in order to show that if we want it, we must be determined to go and get it. Wisdom doesn’t come automatically just because you get older. We get it when we go after it. As the saying goes, “You can only be young once, but you can be immature indefinitely.”
What price are you willing to pay to get wisdom? What sacrifices are you willing to make? Proverbs 8:11: “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.” Proverbs 4:7 provides a challenge to do whatever it takes to get it: “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
4. Decide to Ask For It
Did you hear about the restaurant that gives a 15% discount to people who pray before their meals? Customers at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, NC receive this discount if they are grateful and say grace before they eat. This has generated a lot of interest on social media. I like how the owner explained why she’s doing it: “It’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. I have lived in a 3rd world country [where] there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude.”
While you won’t get a discount from God, if you want wisdom more than anything else, you must decide to ask God for it. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the LORD gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Solomon got it because he asked for it. Daniel admitted that he did not have any wisdom in himself but gave credit to God in Daniel 2:23: “I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; you have given me wisdom and might…”
Friend, when’s the last time you’ve asked God for wisdom? James 1:5 says that all we need to do is request it and God will supply it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” God loves to give generously and when he grants wisdom He doesn’t find fault with us. But we must admit our lack of wisdom and ask for it. Proverbs 8:1 personifies wisdom as calling out for people to take hold of her: “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?”
God will show us what to do when we don’t know what to do.
5. Dedicate Yourself To Jesus
The final pathway to wisdom is found in Jesus Himself according to Colossians 2:3: “…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” If you don’t yet know Christ, then you need to come to Him in faith. If you are already a believer, then rededicate yourself to Jesus and tell others about Him. To know and love and follow Jesus is to own the treasure of wisdom and knowledge. The command, “Get wisdom” ultimately means, “Come to Jesus.”
I’ve been the senior pastor at Edgewood now for 13 months. I want you to know that I have asked God for wisdom from day one and am thankful for the times that I have received wisdom and sensed divine discernment. Having said that, as I reflect on the past, I also want to confess that at times I have operated in my own strength and relied on my own insight. I ask your forgiveness for that. The longer I serve as one of your pastors the more I become aware of my absolute and total depravity and my need to stay in touch and in tune with God at all times. I am committed to pray for wisdom on a daily basis. Would you pray that for me as well?
How about you? Has it been awhile since you’ve asked God for the wisdom that comes from above? Are you facing any tough decisions right now? If you need prayer, I invite you to come down front. If you’re ready to receive Christ, this is the time to do so.