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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, July 24, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Kings 3:5–12

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. (NRSV)

Land the plane, Solomon.

It’s a simple question: what do you want?

I’ve always thought of this encounter between God and Solomon as a kind of genie-in-a-bottle kind of affair; I half expect the king to ask for three more wishes. But, unlike a genie, God is not indebted to Solomon and so discharging some binding responsibility. God is free and gracious. The question is freighted with grace. What do you want?

Part of what makes the question gracious, even merciful, is what comes before. The verses that precede this passage relate to us that Solomon isn’t exactly on the level with God. He’s sacrificing at the “high places,” which is the Samuel/Kings/Chronicles literature’s way of saying “idolatry.” And it’s not a lot, either. Usually, that a king was sacrificing at the high places and allowing the people to do this is all you hear: it’s a sort of summary judgment to say that the king was bad.

But Solomon “loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father, David” (verse 3). It’s just this bit about these high places, and that is only because a temple to God hadn’t been built yet. So he’s a good guy in all other respects, and it’s not really his fault, but, yeah, he does have a high places problem.

So naturally God asks, “What do you want?”

The answer is fascinating (and long). “Wisdom,” Solomon essentially says. He asks for “an understanding mind.” Kudos to you, Solomon.

But the question is just as fascinating. That God should ask the king what he wants when the king is, we’ve just been told, falling short of faithfulness, suggests to me that the old saw about “Getting right with God” maybe has it backwards. God gets right with Solomon, or, rather, God gets Solomon right with God, and all by asking a simple question.

What do you want?

God, you know our desires before we speak them, and yet you are gracious in seeking them out. You care for us. Give us, then, understanding minds to love and serve you all our days. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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