We serve God and others best when we understand how dependent we are on wisdom from the Lord. Solomon is known for his great wisdom, but he possessed that wisdom only because he humbly sought it from God.
Solomon could have had no better beginning to his reign; he had the support of a unified nation, enemy nations had been subdued, and there was prosperity throughout the land. In addition, and most importantly, Solomon begins his reign with a humble spirit.
However, as we begin in 1 Kings chapter 3, we are introduced to a nagging little detail. We learn here in verse 1 that Solomon married the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter, creating a political alliance. Now this marriage might have been politically smart, but it will prove to be spiritually foolish as we will see years later in Solomon’s life.
But for now, everything is starting exactly as it should:
Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father . . . the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. (verses 3-4)
Now as 2 Chronicles chapter 1 tells us, the ark of the covenant had returned to Jerusalem, but the bronze altar from the tabernacle of Moses was at Gibeon (verses 3-4). So, Solomon will sacrifice to the Lord at Gibeon until the temple is built in Jerusalem. The Lord honors Solomon’s worship here, and this particular night, the Lord appears to him in a dream.
Here in 1 Kings 3:5, the Lord simply tells Solomon, “Ask what I shall give you.” In other words, “You’ve got one wish, Solomon. What would you like from Me?” Wow, what an offer! How would you respond?
Well, Solomon’s answer reveals tremendous humility and gratitude. He says to the Lord here in verse 7:
“You have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.”
Unlike his brothers Absalom and Adonijah, who thought they were ready to be king, Solomon admits he is the king only because God has made him king. He also admits that he does not even know when to come in or go out, to stand up or sit down. He feels a desperate need for the Lord’s wisdom.
So, he answers the Lord, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (verse 9). Solomon’s wish is that his heart will be filled with wisdom. He is effectively asking God to give him an instinct for truth.
God responds in verse 12:
“Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”
The Lord also effectively commends Solomon for not asking for what we might have asked for if we were given one wish from God—like a bigger chariot and a nicer boss.
With that, Solomon awakes from this dream and returns to Jerusalem and to his new role as king.
Now, at this point, the Bible gives us an amazing illustration that God truly answered Solomon’s request for wisdom. Beginning here in verse 16, we are told that two prostitutes seek to have their case settled in court. Evidently, lower justices have been stumped by this unique case, and so it is brought before King Solomon.
Evidently, these two women were running a brothel together, and each of them bore a son around the same time. One of the prostitutes says that her coworker accidently lay on her own son one night, and he died. Then around midnight, the woman exchanged her dead baby for the living one. But the prostitute tells Solomon that the next morning she realized that the dead child next to her was not her son (verses 19-21).
Both women now are claiming the living boy is their son. Well, Solomon can’t run DNA tests--and cameras and fingerprints aren’t available. It appears this case is never going to be solved because the claims of both these women are believable.
Then Solomon does the unthinkable.
The king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the [woman] and half to the other [woman]. (verses 24-25)
One of the women essentially just shrugs and says, “That sounds fair enough to me.” But the other woman cries out and pleads with Solomon in verse 26, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.”
Solomon knows right away that she is the real mother because she is willing to give her baby away in order to save his life. And Solomon orders the court to give the child to her.
This was brilliant! Indeed, upon hearing of the king’s judgment, “all Israel . . . stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice” (verse 28).
Solomon’s wisdom is demonstrated, not only in making individual decisions, but also in appointing wise government officials, whose names are listed throughout chapter 4.
Near the end of chapter 4, we have this wonderful statement in verse 25:
Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.
Verse 29 records that “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure.” This wisdom is revealed by the many songs he composed, his wise sayings, and his in-depth scientific skills in observation and knowledge regarding plants, trees, birds, and reptiles. Solomon loved science, and his exploration led him to exalt the Creator.
Beloved, the problem with many scientific endeavors today is that they don’t ultimately lead you to worship the creator God. In fact, they usually attempt to eliminate Him by ignoring what is obvious—that this complex, magnificent, wonderful world has a brilliant, wonderful Creator.
Well, here in chapter 5, we are told of Solomon’s preparations for building a magnificent temple for this magnificent God. God had actually designed the temple and passed down the plans through King David to Solomon.
Solomon enlists the help of Hiram, king of Tyre, to provide cedar and cypress wood, along with skilled carpenters. Then in verse 13, Solomon drafts 30,000 men to work in shifts—one month out of every three months. These Israelite men will work with King Hiram’s craftsmen, logging and transporting huge amounts of timber and cutting with precision massive stones for the temple’s foundation.
More on that later!
Listen, at this early stage of his reign, Solomon loves the Lord, he’s humble, he’s focused on magnifying the glory of God through creation, and he’s made it a priority to construct this temple for God’s glory. But above everything else, Solomon is off to a great start because he was given one wish, and he wished for wisdom.
Maybe you are thinking, That isn’t fair. God hasn’t given me this same opportunity to receive wisdom. The truth is, He has given it to us. The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).
The problem is not that we can’t get wisdom; the problem is that it isn’t on our wish list. So, let’s revise that list. Let’s make wisdom our first and foremost desire and ask God for the wisdom and discernment we need—and do we ever need it!—to walk with Him today.