As many of you know, our pastors are currently preaching through a series on the Kings of Israel in the Old Testament – with Pastor Riddle focusing on King Saul and King David, while I have been focusing on King Solomon.
This week, I have been studying 1 Kings 3, where God grants a young and inexperienced King Solomon the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted. God basically says to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you wish.” In response, King Solomon asked God for Wisdom. Certainly, there was a certain level of humility in Solomon’s request, and the text tells us plainly that his request pleased God. But, if we look closely, we will notice a few things that were “off” with King Solomon. The opening paragraph of 1 Kings 3 tells us that Solomon had made an alliance with Pharaoh (instead of trusting in God’s protection). In order to seal the alliance, King Solomon had married Pharaoh’s daughter (which God had strictly forbidden because it would lead to Egyptian idolatry). We also read that King Solomon – instead of offering sacrifices at the Altar of God in Jerusalem – was sacrificing to God on the “high places” (which were generally used for idol worship).
All of this communicates that Solomon’s heart was not bent toward trusting in King Jesus.
Yet, King Solomon felt the weight of leadership on his shoulders. In fact, the responsibility before him was so overwhelming that it made him feel like a “little child.” So, when God presented him the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom. This was a good thing to ask for because wisdom is directly related to the ability to rule and lead others. Since “ruling” was the job King Solomon was given, he naturally asked for the very best tool he could think of to equip him to lead – “Wisdom.” Again, this was a good thing. The scripture says that “it pleased the Lord” that Solomon asked for wisdom instead of “riches or the life of his enemies.” God was pleased that King Solomon had not asked for a bad thing. This was like giving Solomon a solid grade of B-. The request was good, but it wasn’t great. And it certainly wasn’t the best thing Solomon could have asked for.
Dr. Brian Dembowczyk, co-author of “The Gospel Project for Kids” writes,
“When Solomon became king after his father David, God invited him to ask anything he wanted from God. Anything! OK. Let’s pause right there, be honest with ourselves, and consider for what we may have asked: Money, Fame, Family. But Solomon asked for wisdom. Which was a very wise choice in of itself. Solomon knew that he had a responsibility—a weighty responsibility—to lead God’s people. He wanted to obey God as king and fulfill his mission. So he asked for wisdom to lead God’s people well.
As we know, Solomon was given amazing wisdom and used it quite capably as king. But – and this is such an important but – we also know that he allowed his heart to be overcome with sin—namely adultery and then idolatry. And because of that sin, the kingdom of Israel eventually split in two. Solomon was the wisest man ever. Yet that wisdom did not protect him from sin and it didn’t enable him to be the king God’s people needed him to be. Solomon’s wisdom may have gotten him farther than any of us, but he still drowned in the Atlantic, far short of what should have been his destination.
And that’s the point of this story. Solomon was a wise king who wanted to do God’s will, but his wisdom—as great as it was—wasn’t enough. We need a better king, a wiser king, a perfect king. We need Jesus.
Solomon’s wisdom reminds us that we can never be wise enough—good enough—whatever enough—on our own. It also reminds us that any other person we look to for rescue will not be enough. We need more than a man. We need the God-man, Jesus. Only He is “all-enough” for us. He is all-perfect, all-knowing, all-loving, and a long list of other alls. We need Jesus. Only Jesus.”
And so, King Solomon asked for a good thing, but treated it as if it were the best thing. Wisdom is not the best thing. King Jesus is the BEST thing. Dr. Tim Keller frames point of this story perfectly when he says,
“Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God.” – Tim Keller
In other words, when a secondary thing becomes the ultimate thing, it then becomes an idolatrous thing. In our Christian walk, we have to come back to this truth over and over again. When Jesus gives his invitation to his people, saying “Follow me”, he is calling us to make all other things secondary, and to treasure him as the Best Thing that we could ever receive.