The title of this morning’s message is “Solomon’s Wisdom”. It is the 25th sermon of our current series on the history of the united monarchy. We’ve called this “The United Church - A Study of Ancient Israel”. The events that we’ll discuss today took place during the beginning years of Solomon’s reign. This would date them somewhere around 970 BC.
If we assume that David married Bathsheba sometime during the middle of his 40 year reign, and we know that Solomon was born to her not long thereafter, we can conclude that Solomon was around 20 years old when he became the king. That’s pretty young to become the ruler of a nation. In the United States, a person has to be at least 35 years old before they can serve as president. His young age might explain why David spent so much time mentoring and preparing Solomon before he died.
Also this morning we will move from 1st Chronicles into 2nd Chronicles. As stated earlier in this series, both were composed and/or compiled by Ezra during the post-exilic period. Originally they were a single book. 1st Chronicles ends with the death of David and 2nd Chronicles begins with the reign of Solomon.
This message highlights the importance of wisdom. It is something that we as Christians need more of. Unfortunately, we have a knack for making foolish choices and decisions that regularly bring about disastrous consequences. I pray that God will impress upon each of us here today the enormous value of godly wisdom.
I. WORSHIP AT GIBEON (1 Kings 3:1-5; 2 Chronicles 1:1-7)
Early on during his reign, King Solomon formed an alliance with Egypt and married Pharaoh's daughter. He brought her to live in Jerusalem. Over the course of time, Solomon formed many such alliances with other nations and took on many wives. Though he loved God, Solomon gradually compromised his faith in order to appease these foreign wives and pagan nations.
The temple in Jerusalem at which offerings could be made by the priests had not yet been built. Therefore, the people of Israel often made sacrifices in various and scattered locations called the “high places”. Unfortunately, many of theses high places were established for idol worship. Though David had moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, the tabernacle itself and all of its other furnishings (including the bronze altar) were still set up in Gibeon. This was known as the “great high place”.
Solomon and a large assembly of people went to Gibeon to worship God. While he was there, the young king offered 1,000 burnt offerings on the bronze altar. The LORD appeared to him in a dream that night and told Solomon to ask for whatever he wished. God promised to grant Solomon’s request.
Notice that Solomon went to Gibeon in order to worship God. Making the effort to actually go somewhere to worship is very important. After the temple was constructed (in the centuries that followed), the Jews were expected to journey there 3 times a year in order to make sacrifices. Why couldn’t they just do it in their own home towns? These extensive pilgrimages were commanded in the Mosaic Law. I believe that going to and coming from God’s house is an often overlooked expression of worship.
II. THE KING’S REQUEST (1 Kings 3:6-15; 2 Chronicles 1:8-13)
Solomon was thankful for the blessings that God had bestowed upon his father David. He was also pleased that God had chosen him to follow in his father’s footsteps as the new king. As Solomon dwelt upon the enormous responsibility of leading Israel, he felt ill-equipped for such a huge task. Therefore, Solomon asked the LORD for wisdom, understanding, and discernment in order to judge his people righteously.
God was delighted by Solomon’s humble request. Rather than seeking personal wealth or fame, the king simply wanted the wisdom necessary to lead Israel well. In keeping with His promise, God gave Solomon the wisdom and discernment he’d requested. In addition, the LORD also gave Solomon great riches and honor. Solomon was one of the wisest and wealthiest men who ever lived. God also told Solomon that He would prolong his life if the king remained obedient.
After receiving God’s response, Solomon awoke from his dream. He and those with him returned from Gibeon back to Jerusalem. When he arrived, Solomon came and stood before the Ark of the Covenant. He offered additional burnt offerings and peace offerings there. He also held a feast for his servants to celebrate the wonderful gifts God had given to him.
When we pray and ask God to give us those things which He desires to give, other blessings surely follow. Solomon requested and was given godly wisdom, but he also received great fame and fortune. Had he selfishly requested fame and fortune, he might not have gotten any of it. If we focus on seeking those things which are pleasing to God, He will provide for us bountifully in other ways as well. But if we focus solely on seeking those things which are pleasing to us, we may have to do without.
III. A PROBLEM SOLVED (1 Kings 3:16-28)
Solomon was extremely wise and skilled in resolving problems and passing judgments. One day 2 women appeared before the king. Both of them were harlots who lived together in the same house. No one else lived with them. Both of the women had recently given birth to newborn infants. Sadly, one of the infants had died during the night when its mother accidentally slept on it. Before morning arrived this woman intentionally switched the babies, thereby stealing the surviving baby and replacing it with the dead one. Now these 2 women were both claiming to be child’s true mother.
Solomon had to decide which women was telling the truth and which was lying. After all, they both couldn’t be the baby’s mother. So Solomon asked that a sword be brought to him. Then he proposed cutting the living infant in half and giving a part to each woman. The child’s true mother shuddered at the thought that her son would be killed and urged the king to just give him to the other woman. Meanwhile the lying woman was indifferent and thought that the king’s decision was acceptable.Their differing reactions to his proposed solution made it clear who the true mother was. After identifying her, Solomon gave the baby to its actual mother.
When word of this judgment and possibly others spread throughout the kingdom, all of Israel feared King Solomon for his great wisdom and keen ability to administer justice.
As we wrap up the message today, I want to take a moment to think seriously about Solomon’s solution to the dispute between these 2 women. He proposed that the baby be cut in half so that each woman would receive an equal share. Killing the infant sure seems like a senseless and cruel way to resolve this argument, doesn’t it? Surely he didn’t actually intend to do this... right? Well, apparently these women believed he would. Otherwise they’d have not reacted in the manner that they did. Fortunately we didn’t have to find out whether Solomon was serious or not!
Sometimes the wisest decisions may seem on their face to be bizarre or even callous (such as cutting a baby apart). This is because wisdom and compassion are not always in agreement. I’m not saying that Solomon was heartless or that he had no empathy. On the contrary, I believe he was a very kind and caring man. But he knew that sound decisions must be based on reason and logic, not on emotion alone. Many peoples’ choices are based almost entirely on their impulses and feelings rather than on what is actually best. Such decision-making is often childish and foolish. Wisdom is a sign of spiritual maturity.
The Bible teaches us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. In other words, no person can be truly wise without having a dependent faith in God. This is because all wisdom comes from God. Scripture also says that anyone who does not believe in the existence of God is a fool. It goes on to say that believers should desire wisdom more than any other treasure. In light of these truths, how wise are you? If you're like me, there’s plenty of room for growth… Perhaps we should pray that God would grant us more wisdom.