A Season of Promise
5. The Promise of Wisdom
1 Kings 3: 1 - 15
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. The Bible is full of wise sayings that are not fuzzy at all. One of my favourites 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! Another one that continues the canine theme but is a bit more graphic -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.
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 4 verses.
1. He was Politically Compromised v. 1
In order to extend his kingdom and be at peace with those around him, Solomon was adept at political compromise. 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.
2. He was Personally Conflicted v. 2, 3
His political compromise led to Solomon becoming personally conflicted. 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.
Notice how conflicted Solomon was. 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 2 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 ….. 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 v. 4
Solomon was “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” He loved the Lord and yet he compromised and he was conflicted. But he was also profoundly committed. He worshipped at the place where the Tabernacle was located - he killed 1000 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.
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 v. 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? 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 v. 6.
We see that Solomon began his answer to the Lord the right way by recalling God’s work. He recalls God’s kindness and honours 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 v. 7, 8.
Solomon calls himself both a servant and a child. He is overwhelmed with the task before him, recognizing his inadequacy and ineptitude. 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 v. 9.
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. 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.
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 2 responses:
1. God is Pleased v. 10.
If you want to delight God, decide to ask Him for wisdom.
2. God Provides v. 11 - 15.
God tells Solomon that He will grant him “a wise and understanding heart.” 1 Kings 4: 29: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.” Because he asked for that which pleased God, Solomon was given wisdom and much more than he dreamed of: riches, honour, and the possibility of a long life. This is a wonderful example of what happens when we put God’s purposes first - Matthew 6: 33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Solomon’s Reaction v. 15
When Solomon awoke from his divine dream, he did a couple things right away.
1. 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.
2. He Gathered with God’s People.
At the conclusion of the sacrifices, he shared some T bones with the people as they fellowshipped and feasted together. 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. 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.
5 Pathways to Seeking Wisdom
1. Develop the Fear of the Lord
Proverbs 1: 7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” There are 2 kinds of people: those who fear the Lord, and the fools who do not. The first lesson in the school of wisdom is to develop a proper view of God. 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. In the NT, the contrast is between the believer and the unbeliever, the saved and the lost, those in the light and those who walk in darkness.
God is 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 King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the Almighty who is holy, holy, holy. When we truly fear the Lord, we will recognize that He is the Creator and we are the created. He is the Father and we are His children. Fearing God is really a synonym for worship. 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
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…”
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.
3. Determine to Get Wisdom
We must desire it with all our might. 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.”
Wisdom doesn’t come automatically just because you get older. We get it when we go after it. 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
Proverbs 2: 6 “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 - 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 “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.
5. Dedicate Yourself To Jesus
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.
I’ve been the senior pastor at Wilro Park now for 28 years. 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? Would you pray that for yourself 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.