A sermon preached by Bob Keller on July 24, 2011, based upon Kings 3: 5 – 12.
Francoise Sagan said, “I like men to behave like men – strong and childish.”
I, much like Solomon, am a child in the same sense that Solomon used the word in the scripture that David just read for us. One was called a ‘child’ if they were a servant or an inexperienced person still in training for a profession.
When it comes to the Old Testament, I am definitely a child. I confess that I don’t often read it and, without reading it, it’s kind of difficult to understand it.
That being said, I do understand that the Old Testament contains much of the history of our faith; our introduction to God; the prophecies of His coming and the promise of His salvation for His children.
The book of 1 Kings is a story of one people headed down two different paths. It’s a story of good kings and bad kings, a story of true prophets and false prophets and of loyalty and disobedience to God. But most importantly, it’s a story of Israel’s spiritual journey and God’s faithfulness to His people.
Some of you here have a kind of nick-name for me. You call me “the voice of God.” Now I’m sure that’s not because of any particular wisdom that I have, but because the tone of my voice is a bit deeper than average. And when Darryl adds a bit of reverb on the mic, well, you get the idea.
When I read today’s scripture, the voice of God that I heard sounded a bit like Robin Williams. Remember the movie Aladdin from the early 90’s? Aladdin was lucky enough to find the old lamp that he was looking for, but when he had it and the genie, voiced by Robin Williams, offered to fulfill his wish, he didn’t know what to ask for. Then he met the princess and knew that he had to become a prince if he was to have any chance at all of winning her over. The genie said, “Say the magic words.” And Aladdin said, “Make me a prince.” The genie’s response was, “Hang on to your turban!”
Forgive for this, but I think I see a few similarities here. Solomon was just named king after his father, David, died at age 70. Solomon was just 20, a child in more ways than one, and his path to being Israel’s new king was a bit rocky. Solomon’s brother had tried to step in ahead of him, against the wishes of David.
Solomon knew the awesome responsibility that he had. Israel had been at war. Solomon knew that he had to forge peace. The people of Israel were so many that they couldn’t be counted or numbered. And they were to endure, forever. Now imagine what you, at 20 years old, would have done with that kind of responsibility thrust upon you.
Solomon had just made a sacrifice to God and he slept. God appeared to him in a dream. Now God was pleased with his people, and he was especially pleased with Solomon as the new king. God said, “Hang on to your turban!, I’m going to give you anything that you ask for.”
Has anyone here ever been given a blank check? I know I haven’t, but I’ve often dreamed about what I’d do with one if I had one. Of course, I’m assuming the check would be from Bill Gates and not Bernie Madoff. Now imagine if that blank check came from God.
Notice the first thing that Solomon did after God made his offer. He thanked God. He thanked Him for His kindness, both to His people and to himself. Then he confessed his shortcomings and then, only then, did he ask God for something.
Would you ask God for a discerning heart? God was so pleased with Solomon’s request for discernment that he further blessed him with wealth and honor like no king had ever had or that has had since.
We may not be as wise as Solomon in the ways of the world. We may not have the same opportunities as Solomon to establish an empire, expand a kingdom or to build a temple of gold and ivory. We may not live as kings. But, we have been given a gift. That gift is no less than that which was given to Solomon. It’s the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit.
You may have heard this before. It’s been circulating on email lists for a while. It’s called, “God Said No”
I asked God to take away my habit. God said, “No. It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.”
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, “No. His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.”
I asked God to grant me patience. God said, “No. Patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn’t granted, it is learned.”
I asked God to give me happiness. God said, “No. I give you blessings; happiness is up to you.”
I asked God to spare me pain. God said, “No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.”
I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, “No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.”
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. God said, “No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.”
I asked God to help me love others, as much as He loves me. God said, “Ahhh, finally you have the idea.”
Solomon knew that genuine success could be experienced only in discerning and doing God’s will.
Remember those that we talked about last week? The Esseenes that thought they could help God’s kingdom come along by separating themselves from the impure ones. Or the Zealots that thought they could help God’s kingdom happen by might with the overthrow of the Romans or the Pharisees that thought strict adherence to the law would usher in God’s kingdom. They were all trying to play God. Trying to do the work that God said He would do. We know that our works are as filthy rags in the eyes of the Lord, so why do we try to play God?
And yet God stands there each and every time we turn to Him and he offers. All we have to do is ask.
Asking has changed the world. Would Solomon be remembered for his wisdom had he not asked for it? Jesus asked the disciples to follow Him. They did, and Christianity has fundamentally changed this world. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked this nation to treat minorities with equality and it threw off much of the bigotry and injustice of his day. If you are married it is because you asked. If you have a job it is because you asked. Every day is an opportunity to ask God for his wisdom to know and do His will for your life.
The great value of asking is it keeps us focused on the Lord. It may be a need in your life, but for it to be met or for you to have the wisdom to respond correctly, it will require the Lord’s help. Praying for wisdom keeps your focus on the Lord and his priorities.
And that’s where God wants us. We are wonderfully and beautifully made; made in His image. His son was sent to give us eternal life. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide us. We are sent to love ourselves and one another.
We thank you God for the many blessings of this life. We thank you for the discerning hearts and minds you have given to us. We thank You for the gift of the Spirit who continues to work in us, guiding us, leading us, comforting us, pleading for us when we stumble. We thank you for the most precious treasure, Your Son Jesus Christ. We ask that you would create in us clean hearts and renew our spirits.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son and our Lord. Amen.