1 Kings 3:1-28 God the Giver of wisdom
Various incidents and expressions from the Bible have passed into everyday speech, sometimes accurately (‘The patience of Job’) sometimes inaccurately (‘Money is the root of all evil’). In a culture that is increasingly biblically illiterate, we can expect biblical language to fade from people’s minds or be misunderstood. What of ‘the wisdom of Solomon’? We now consider 1 Kings 3:1-28 God the Giver of wisdom.
1. The need for wisdom
‘Wisdom’ in Scripture is very practical, knowing how to translate our relationship with the Lord into daily godly living. We see why Solomon needed wisdom in v1-3. On the positive side, Solomon ‘showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David’ (v3), but there were inconsistencies, as in his marriage (in addition to his first wife) to a pagan Egyptian princess, contrary to (Deuteronomy 17:17), and his continuing worship at the ‘high places’ (contrary to Deuteronomy 7:5). But the Lord is very gracious to Solomon – he is ‘the giving God’ (James 1:5) in regard to wisdom.
2. The prayer for wisdom
(i). God’s nature. This is the foundation for all prayer. He is the God of covenant ‘kindness’ (v6), as in the covenant with David (2 Samuel 7). We can pray because he has promised all we need in his covenant.
(ii). Solomon’s request. His concern is for wisdom – ‘a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong’ (v9). Our prayers should focus on how we can do the Lord’s work and serve his people.
(iii). God’s answer. He grants Solomon great wisdom (v12) and also ‘riches and honour’ (v13). The requirement for obedience is also clear – ‘walk in my ways’ (v14).
3. The exercise of wisdom
The fact God has answered Solomon’s prayer is evident from v16-27, where it is clear that justice will be available for all, including despised prostitutes. Wisdom is demonstrated in the decision (v27) – a very practical gift for a ruler – and note that ‘Israel…held the king in awe’ (v28). The Lord is establishing his king over his people.
4. The perfection of wisdom
The affairs of God’s kingdom are to be viewed in the wider context of Scripture. The king was God’s representative – each king was to portray to the world something of God’s righteous reign. All merely human kings were flawed, but they pointed to the perfect King, the Messiah. Note Isaiah 11, prophetic of the Messiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding’ (v2). As a result, ‘with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth’ (v4). These words are fulfilled in Christ, ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3). It is our privilege to belong to the kingdom of the perfect King and to serve him.
What makes a good leader? Much depends on the sphere in which leadership is exercised. Often in politics lack of leadership is apparent, and concern with popularity can take priority. Scripture has much to say about those who lead God’s people. Both being and doing are crucial. We now consider 1 Kings 2:1-46 The kingdom secured.
1. Obeying God
We need to understand that Israel’s king ruled the covenant people of God. This is rooted in the covenant that God made with David (2 Samuel 7), especially the promise ‘I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…I will establish his kingdom’ (v12). The promise finds its ultimate fulfilment in King Jesus. Within the covenant God’s requirement of his people is always loving obedience, especially on the part of the King. Regarding Solomon, David charges him, ‘observe what the Lord your God requires’ (v3). Within the covenant obedience is the path to blessing – by God’s grace, not because we deserve it. Without obedience, we cannot claim to love God. We want to be one ‘who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice’ (Matthew 7:24).
2. Implementing justice
God ensures the welfare of his kingdom. He gives the covenant blessing, but his people, especially his king, have the responsibility to act in ways that promote the kingdom’s welfare. The kingdom will not be established without the king’s implementing justice. We are not to think of David and Solomon as cynical ruthless political operators: they are God’s rulers seeking to implement justice in the ambiguities of a fallen world.
(i). Adonijah. He is the architect of his own downfall, the request for Abishag either folly or a renewed attempt on the throne. He rejects the mercy already shown.
(ii). Joab. He had much blood on his hands, including Abner (2 Samuel 3:27) and Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9-10), as well as Absalom. The justice that David had failed to exact, in fear of Joab, will now be executed.
(iii). Abiathar. Although he had stood by David during Absalom’s revolt (2 Samuel 15:24), which now saved his life, he had joined Adonijah’s revolt. To retain usefulness in the Lord’s service, we must persevere.
(iv). Barzillai. His faithfulness to David is rewarded (v7). The ‘kindness’ is a reflection of the covenant kindness of the Lord who never forsakes his people.
3. Securing peace
Note ‘The kingdom was now finally established in Solomon’s hands’ (v46). There is peace within the kingdom, based on the justice described. The rule of King Jesus is established on justice, with the King bearing the penalty due to the sins of his people (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is how God’s kingdom operates. Concern for righteousness and justice should inform the discipline of the church. Ultimate peace will be secured at the return of the King in his judgment of unrepentant enemies, when ‘he has put all his enemies under his feet’ (Psalm 110:1, 1 Corinthians 15:25), securing his Kingdom.
No leader is immortal. Even the greatest can serve only for a limited time. Eventually he or she must step aside (or be removed by death or other forces). That time of change can be difficult and dangerous. At the beginning of 1 Kings Israel is approaching a time of transition as David nears the end of his life: what will become of the kingdom? We must also bear in mind that the Lord appoints the king and Israel is a picture of the Kingdom of God, so that the king foreshadows the Messiah, who reigns over God’s eternal kingdom. We begin by considering 1 Kings 1:1-53 Long live King Solomon.
1. The rebellion planned
The kingdom is in danger since David is ‘old and well advanced in years’ (v1). He seems to have reached a point of allowing things to happen rather than taking decisive action. Such apparent weakness provides an opportunity for Adonijah (v5) to foment rebellion. He seems totally unqualified, making no mention of the Lord and giving no evidence of personal godliness. David has not exercised control (v6) and the rebellion gathers supporters (v7ff). Here is a reminder that God’s king and kingdom are always under attack – see Psalm 2 – with the ultimate fulfilment in the Messiah (see Acts 4:24-30).
2. The succession secured
The Lord always has faithful kingdom servants to fulfil his purposes, such as Nathan (v11) who sees the danger and implements a plan of action. He also includes Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, who received a promise that Solomon would be king (v17). They understood that trust in God’s sovereignty did not rule out action guided by faith. God used the action of such faithful servants to preserve the kingdom. Being ‘shrewd as snakes’ (Matthew 10:16), we must work diligently for the King as he gives opportunity.
3. The king proclaimed
The news from Nathan and Bathsheba transforms David. The ‘old David’ is needed and returns. He is powerfully motivated when he understands the danger in which the kingdom stands. He has a profound awareness of the Lord: ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble’ (v29). He does all that is required for Solomon’s coronation as co-regent (v32-40). His action is necessary for the fulfilment of the sovereign plan of God. Like David, we should be stirred by a deep concern for the welfare of God’s kingdom as we serve King Jesus.
4. The kingdom preserved
Adonijah’s rebellion disintegrates in the face of the king’s action and Solomon’s anointing. Though David’s action was crucial, he knows that it is by God’s hand that this has happened – ‘Praise be to the Lord’ (v48). Ultimately the rebellion of the nations is frustrated by the appointed Messiah – ‘I have installed my king on Zion’ (Psalm 2:6). The Lord will not allow his kingdom to perish and so we can rejoice in faith.
If a royal visitor was coming, you would make the best preparations you could. You would not think that second best would be ‘good enough’. Not least, you would want to look your best, dressed suitably to meet such a dignitary. If that is the case for a merely human ruler, how much more careful should we be when we know we will stand before the King of kings? We now consider 2 Peter 3:14-18 The Lord is coming.
1. Exhortation to prepare
The details of the Second Coming of the Lord exercise a fascination for some people, but we must not try to go beyond what he has actually revealed in Scripture. The information we are given is to have a practical effect on the lives of believers. Thus we read, ‘since you are looking forward to this, make every effort’ (v14). It is a call to action, an exhortation to the hard work that will prepare for the Lord’s coming. We will ‘be found in his sight’ (v14, lit.) – the final judgment. How are we to prepare? Note ‘at peace’ – chiefly with one another, as disunity among believers dishonours the Lord. In our personal spiritual life we are to be ‘spotless, blameless’, our desire is to be like Christ (see 1 Peter 1:19). Note also Hebrews 12:14 ‘without holiness no-one will see the Lord’.
2. Exhortation to learn
We have here a fascinating insight into the development of the New Testament. Peter quotes Paul in support of his teaching: ‘just as our dear brother Paul also wrote’ (v15). Note the authority of his writings: ‘the wisdom given him’ (v15; ‘by God’ not in the original, but the meaning is clear). Paul’s writings are classed with ‘the other Scriptures’ (v16) – they are equally part of the ‘God-breathed’ writings (2 Timothy 3:16). In time the church came to recognise the inspired nature of our NT documents, acknowledging (not granting) their authority. We are to learn from them and submit to their teaching. Granted we find ‘some things that are hard to understand’, but we must not be like ‘ignorant and unstable people’ who twist Scripture and damage their souls. We need to be firmly grounded in the truths revealed in the Word of God.
3. Exhortation to grow
With deep pastoral concern Peter gives final instructions:
- Negative: We are to remain steadfast in the truth we know and ‘be on your guard’ (v17). If Christians do not guard against the subtle attacks of error, they may become unstable and unable to resist the temptations that would be destructive of their spiritual life. There must be no complacency (1 Corinthians 10:12).
- Positive: ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (v18). Being firmly rooted in truth is the beginning, but then there must be growth and progress. Knowledge must be translated into godly living. We never relax in this life (Philippians 3:12). The focus is to be on Christ and the doxology is a fitting conclusion.