When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. (1 Kings 3:28 NIV)
1 Kings 3 is a fairly familiar chapter because of the two episodes that dominate it. The first is Solomon’s divine encounter in a dream and the second is how that encounter impacts a landmark ruling he makes in the light of a dispute. Just because it is familiar, this does not mean it should be glibly looked over.
In the first episode one thing that’s often assumed is that Solomon when given the opportunity to have anything he wanted asked God for wisdom. This is not strictly true. His request was for a ‘discerning heart’ to be able to govern and distinguish between right and wrong. God in response gives Solomon a wise and discerning heart. Which is to state that God understood that to be discerning to govern is to require a dependence on wisdom.
It’s fascinating to see God’s pleasure in Solomon’s request. It’s like if we could have one wish. Understandably, many of us might well have asked for riches, health, long life, removal of our adversaries and that kind of thing. That request would be more than understandable. God is delighted, however, because this request shows a recognition that the character of God is needed to do what’s right. It’s a plea for the most important resource any human being needs to thrive in the land of the living.
It’s only as I get older that I appreciate that this request is not just essential for a king looking after God’s people. This request is essential for anyone engaging with anyone. We may not govern people, but we certainly govern relationships and so we need a wise and discerning heart so that we know what is right from what is wrong and pursue the right. That ability is of far greater value than anything else. Indeed the external trappings we may desire won’t be worth anything without a wise and discerning heart. Yet that wise and discerning can in itself create a flourishing environment for those in our spheres of influence.
This is certainly the case in the second episode of this chapter. Solomon knows that to get to the truth of the matter is to flush out the real character of a mother. It could have been left just a case of hearsay, but Solomon applied wisdom to distinguish right from wrong. That ability to apply wisdom to distinguish cannot be underestimated. Every day we are presented with compelling choices and decisions, the inability to exercise wisdom leads us down paths of frustration and sometimes heartache.
God give us wisdom to distinguish between right and wrong!
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden