Choose Wisdom!

Choose Wisdom!

Having completed highlighting different parts of 1 and 2 Samuel, this morning we transition to 1 Kings where we’ll see the royal baton passing from King David to his son, Solomon. As the book of 1 Kings opens, we learn that King David “was very old.”[1] We further learn that one of his sons, Adonijah, had put himself forward as king.[2] So in order to keep Adonijah from becoming king Nathan the prophet approached Bathsheba and had her inform David about Adonijah and suggest to him that he leave the throne to their son, Solomon, instead.[3] David took heed of both Bathsheba and Nathan’s advice. When he later called Bathsheba back, he announced to her his oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”[4] Thus were Adonijah’s plans foiled and averted.

As chapter 2 opens, we read, “When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.” And these are David’s parting words:

I am about to go the way of all the earth…. So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: “If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul,[5] you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.”

This is a beautiful charge, much of which transcends its time for wouldn’t we all do well to “be strong, act like [men]”—that is, act like responsible adults and “be courageous”[6]—“and observe what the LORD [our] God requires,” namely that we “walk in obedience to him,… keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses”? And we are twice blessed for we living in the 21st century not only have God’s Word from the Old Testament but also the teaching that arose from that word as well as many of Jesus’ and his apostles’ words recorded for us in the New Testament that we might know how God would have us live. So David’s dying wish for his son, Solomon, to whom he left the throne was that he rule as David had sought to rule, acting courageously and ruling in accord with what God had disclosed. These are words to live by!

In the remainder of David’s exhortation to Solomon he went on to provide information about various people he’d worked closely with.[7] Then sometime after delivering these words, we’re provided a summary of his life in verses 10­–11 of chapter 2: “10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem.” And with David’s death, the kingship is officially passed down to Solomon, verse 12: “So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.” By the actions David took at Nathan and Bathsheba’s behest, he had secured the kingship for Solomon rather than Adonijah. And not surprisingly one of Solomon’s first orders of business was to deal with his half-brother,[8] Adonijah. For despite having been overruled by David in his desire to be king, he nonetheless approached Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, asking that he be given Abishag, a beautiful Shunnamite woman who had earlier been brought in to care for David.[9] When Bathsheba approached Solomon on Adonijah’s behalf with his request, Solomon saw through this back-door ploy of becoming king and had Adonijah put to death.[10] While he was at it, he also got rid of those who had turned against David, including Abiathar the priest whom he sent back to Anathoth rather than putting him to death;[11] Joab, David’s former army commander “who had conspired with Adonijah”[12] and was thereby put to death;[13] and Shimei, who was initially confined to Jerusalem but was later put to death for violating the terms of his confinement.[14] After Solomon had done all of this, the chapter ends by stating, “The kingdom was now established in Solomon’s hands” (verse 46b).

Having put his kingdom in order, in chapter 3 one of the first things we learn about Solomon, as read for us earlier, is that he “showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places” (verse 3). Sadly, this “except” became Solomon’s Achilles heel later in life as he was lured away from serving the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob alone and ended up serving the gods of his many wives and concubines as well.[15] But for the time being Solomon began well as he took his father’s admonitions to heart and walked according to the instructions David had given him.

Now when Solomon “went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices” (verse 4), “the Lord appeared to [him] during the night in a dream” and made him an extraordinary offer. As recorded at the end of verse 5, God came to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Our familiarity with this account perhaps keeps us from appreciating how breathtaking this request from God was. Think about it. If you were asked by God for whatever you wanted, what would you ask for? To live forever? Wealth? Health for you or someone you love? To bring back someone you love? To find a spouse? Have children or grandchildren? Isn’t a request like this the stuff of our dreams? Aren’t we taught as children the story about the genie in a bottle who granted three wishes in exchange for his freedom? And the myth of King Midas who in exchange for treating a satyr with kindness was offered whatever reward he chose. Didn’t hearing about Midas’ request of having whatever he touched turn to gold cause us to wonder what we would choose under similar circumstances? Again, if we could have anything we want, what would we ask for?

Well, we know Solomon’s choice. He chose wisdom. Beginning with verse 6 we read the beginning of his response to the LORD. “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.” So Solomon began by remembering and recounting God’s goodness to his father and, by extension, to him. He was well aware of what a privilege it was to serve God’s chosen people as their Shepherd-King and so began by expressing his gratitude in acknowledging such kindness from God.

Next Solomon stated, as recorded in verses 7–8, “7 Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.” Despite having taken quick action in ridding his kingdom of those who might seek to harm him, Solomon was open and honest before God. He expressed genuine humility and acknowledged his need for God and his guidance. Being king was not going to be easy. Solomon was all too aware of the enormity of the task that had been handed down to him. Hearing Solomon’s response to God helps us better appreciate his father’s parting admonition to “act like a man” for Solomon said of himself “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” It’s possible that Solomon had expressed this concern to his father, thus leading his father to encourage him in this area. But though Solomon referred to himself as “only a little child,” we shouldn’t take this literally for he’s believed to have been around twenty years old when he took over the throne from his father, David. [16] So though not literally a child, twenty is still awfully young to be handed the responsibility of ruling over a great nation. Imagine being two years out of high school and being given the responsibility to rule a nation of twelve tribes, many of which didn’t always get along and play nice. That’s a lot to ask of a twenty year-old!

And after stating his feelings of inadequacy, we arrive at Solomon’s request in verse 9, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” I imagine many have heard the distinction sometimes made between “wisdom” and “knowledge”: knowledge has to do with facts; wisdom with how to properly apply those facts. More specifically the dictionary defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment” And Solomon asks for a discerning heart—for this wisdom—that he might be enabled to do two things: First, govern God’s people. And second, distinguish between right and wrong. The first reason makes sense for governing God’s people was the task to which he was called. And, as already noted, as a young man of but twenty or so years of age with little experience, knowledge, or good judgment, this was a daunting task. But the second reason Solomon gives is interesting, isn’t it? We sometimes act as though the right thing to do is always obvious but it isn’t. We can be blind—or perhaps even blind ourselves—as to the right course of action in any given situation; we can further be swayed by power or influence from those around us or those we want to impress; we might even assume that what we want to do must be the right thing to do by virtue of the fact that we want to do it. Yet in these and many other ways we are often wrong about what the right thing to do might be so it’s notable that part of Solomon’s response was a desire for a discerning heart not only to govern but also to distinguish between right and wrong.

Not surprisingly, we read in verse 10 about how “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” And starting with verse 11, we’re told why he was pleased. “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” If, as taught in the book of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,[17] then even in making this request Solomon is proving to be wise. For the fear of the Lord is the desire to live according to his ways rather than our ways; it’s the desire to live according to his will rather than our own. So God promised Solomon that he would indeed given him “a wise and discerning heart”—so much so that he will stand alone in his capacity for wisdom. And indeed Solomon’s wisdom has become proverbial.

Further, in typical God fashion, he ended up granting Solomon not only what he requested but even more, as stated starting in verse 13: “13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” So God didn’t simply grant what Solomon asked but the God of riches added to it for he is a generous God. And should Solomon continue to walk in God’s ways, he would even be granted a long life. But sadly, as alluded to earlier, Solomon didn’t continue to walk in obedience to God’s decrees and commands for he later chose to follow the gods of his wives and concubines and thus broke the covenant. Subsequently, he wasn’t granted a long life but only lived to be around the age of 60.[18] Even so there is wisdom to be gleaned in this brief passage in looking at how Solomon replied to the LORD’s offer.

The first thing he did was to remember and recount God’s goodness to both him and his father, David. We would do well to do the same. As we look back on our lives, what are some of the ways that we’ve seen him work? How have we seen him express his goodness? How have we seen him express his kindness to us and to those we love? How has he provided for us? In remembering and recounting God’s goodness, our knowledge and faith and love for him are strengthened. And because we are a forgetful people, it’s essential that we do stop and remember and share these times of seeing God at work with one another. For you and I are called to be witnesses. We are called to testify to the goodness and greatness of our Lord and Savior.

The second thing Solomon did was to humbly acknowledge his need before God. Solomon knew he was in over his head. He didn’t feel up to the task of ruling the nation of Israel. And though by comparison our responsibilities in life may seem small, nonetheless we, too, should be humble and turn to and rely upon God. We too should seek his guidance as we go through the course of our day and as we go through the course of our lives. For God made us not to live independently from him but to live dependently upon him as we seek to rely upon him.

And, of course, we can learn from Solomon by returning to our earlier question: If we could have anything we want, what would we ask for? I think it would be difficult to do better than to follow in Solomon’s steps and choose wisdom. For a prayer for wisdom is one that pleases God. And we can take heart in knowing that a prayer for wisdom is a prayer God loves to grant all of his children. As James, the brother of Jesus, exhorts us in his epistle, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”[19] Brothers and sisters, God wants us to choose wisdom for he desires for us to be wise as he is wise.

And as Solomon acknowledged, we need wisdom—perhaps not to rule over a nation but as stewards over our respective small domains, we nonetheless need wisdom for how best to rule and govern our lives and care for those around us.

And, as Solomon also acknowledged, we need wisdom to distinguish between right and wrong. For oftentimes what our world says is right is what God in his Word and teaching says is wrong. So, for example, the world may say it’s right to hate our enemies but Jesus calls us to love our enemies;[20] and oftentimes what our world says is wrong is what God in his Word and teaching says is right. The world may say that to believe there’s only one way to God is wrong or that belief in any God is wrong, but Jesus tells us he is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but through him.[21] As we’ve often noted before, God gave us his Word that we might know what love for him and love for others looks like in practice. And so we need to heed and follow that word and pray for wisdom that we might be able to distinguish between right and wrong so act with mercy and justice.

Finally, we should remember that Solomon’s request of God—and God’s response to that request—points to the generosity of the God who made us. For

God didn’t simply grant what Solomon asked he added to it for he is a generous God. As Paul also testifies in his letter to the Ephesians, “In him”—that is in Christ who came as God in the flesh—”we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”[22] So dear sisters and brothers, this morning and always,

Let us remember and share God’s goodness and generosity with gratitude;

Let us come before and depend upon him with humility;

And let us ask him for wisdom to govern our lives and distinguish between right and wrong that we might live to the praise of his glory and honor now and forevermore.

Let us pray.



[1] 1 Kings 1:1.

[2] 1 Kings 1:5: Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.

[3] 1 Kings 1:11–14: 11 Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it? 12 Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: “Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ 14 While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said.”

[4] 1 Kings 1:29.

[5] Note the similarity to Deuteronomy 6:5: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.; Matthew 22:35–40: 34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Leviticus 19:18: “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

[6] 1 Corinthians 16:13 translates a similar phrase in Greek (ἀνδρίζεσθε—act like a men) with “be courageous”: 13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.

[7] Joab, about whom he says in verse 6, “Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace;” Barzillai’s sons for whom he asks Solomon to show kindness for their faithfulness to him (verse 7); and Shimei whom David had spared but about whom he says in verse 9, “Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

[8] Solomon was David’s son by Bathsheba. As stated in verse 13 and elsewhere Adonijah was son to another wife of David’s, Haggith.

[9] 1 Kings 1:1–4: 1 When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his attendants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.” Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.

[10] 1 Kings 2:25.

[11] 1 Kings 2:26–27: 26 To Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign Lord before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships.” 27 So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the Lord, fulfilling the word the Lord had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli.

[12] 1 Kings 2:28.

[13] 1 Kings 2:34.

[14] 1 Kings 2:36–37, 41–42, 46: 36 Then the king sent for Shimei and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, but do not go anywhere else. 37 The day you leave and cross the Kidron Valley, you can be sure you will die; your blood will be on your own head….” 41 When Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and had returned, 42 the king summoned Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the Lord and warn you, ‘On the day you leave to go anywhere else, you can be sure you will die’? At that time you said to me, ‘What you say is good. I will obey….’ 46 Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shimei down and he died.

[15] See 1 Kings 11:1–13: 11 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”


[16] The Reformation ESV Study Bible states: “Solomon was possibly about twenty years old at his accession. He was young and inexperienced, but was humble enough to admit it.” The Zondervan NIV Study Bible similarly states: “The birth of Solomon is generally placed in approximately the middle of David’s 40-year reign, meaning that Solomon was about 20 years old at the beginning of his own reign…and lacked experience in assuming the responsibilities of his office.”

[17] Proverb 15:33: Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.; See also Job 28:28:  “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”;  Psalm 111:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

[18] If Solomon was around 20 when he took the throne, he died around the age of 60. See 1 Kings 11:42: Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years.

[19] James 1:5.

[20] Matthew 5:43-43: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

[21] John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

[22] Ephesians 1:7–10.

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