A mother and her young son were at a local swimming pool. The boy was standing at the deep end, his toes curled over the edge. Still unsure of himself in the water, he stood there for what seemed to be a very long time. Hesitating. Meditating. Just when it seemed that he was going to back away from the edge, he looked up to the sky, put his hands together, and said, “O Lord, give me skills or give me gills!” He jumped.
“Give me skills or give me gills.” That pretty much covers the bases, doesn’t it? O Lord give me what I need to overcome what I’m facing, but if you won’t do that, give me what I need to endure it. Give me skills or give me gills.
Solomon likely prayed a similar prayer when he became King of Israel. He was in way over his head. He was only 20 years old. His father was dead. Solomon was now the head of both the family and the nation of Israel. He was grieving and afraid. He was carrying a heavy load. Solomon tried to follow in his father’s footsteps, but it was clear that Solomon was definitely not his father.
Solomon understood that the task before him would not be easy. He confessed his fear, and that confession was a powerful testimony to his own humanity. His entire life as presented in 1 Kings shows the brokenness he shared with all of us. By asking for wisdom, Solomon showed that he already had some wisdom. He was wise enough to know that he was not up to the task at hand, and he was wise enough to ask for help. This is an example of good leadership. Leadership in all forms requires leaders to hold in tension humility and confidence, finitude and limitless capacity, the gifts we have and the gifts we have yet to acquire.
The good thing was that Solomon knew that he was not his father, and when confronted with it, he confessed. Just when he had forgotten or abandoned the way to God, God found him in Gibeon, where he went to make sacrifices and burn incense. This shows that when God calls someone to a task, that call isn’t genuine unless the person who is called protests that they are inadequate for the task. It is a way of saying that the person can only carry out the task with God’s help.
Solomon’s dream was a direct revelation from God, not a symbolic vision needing interpretation. Dreams were frequent channels of revelation in Old Testament times. God came down from heaven to grant the wishes of a young man and put the keys to all His treasures in Solomon’s hands. Solomon could have had anything he wanted-within reason. His answer to God’s question marked his maturity as well as his love for the Lord.
How often in God’s Word are we reminded that every faithful believer has that same privilege? Luke 11:9 states, “And I say unto you, ask, and it will be given to you.” John 15:7 states, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Even though we are not kings, every time we come to God through our Mediator Jesus Christ, God says, “Ask! What shall I give you?” The doors to His unlimited blessings are opened to us.
You might be asking yourselves, “If God knows my thoughts, why do I have to come before Him to ask in prayer for what I want? If God knows everything, then He certainly knows what is best for me. Why doesn’t he provide those things without my asking?” The answer is that sometimes He does provide those things without us asking Him, but as a heavenly Father, He wants us to communicate with Him.
God is constantly leading us into places where we are in way over our heads. This story about Solomon gives us hope. It means we can relax. We can stop pretending that we have everything under control. We can stop wasting time and energy on our own personal high places, pretending to be something or someone we’re not.
How often do we ask God for wisdom? How often do we seek His wisdom? God is pleased when, in our hearts, we put others before ourselves. God delights in prospering when prosperity is not our chief aim. When we get it right, and in our hearts we do place others before ourselves, God can and will bless us beyond our wildest dreams.
God will give us wisdom as He did Solomon if we heed His principles. First, we must recognize that wisdom comes from God. If we want wisdom, we must seek it from its proper source, God Himself. Second, we must pray for wisdom. God has promised to give us wisdom if we ask. Then, we must read and meditate on God’s Word. When we know God’s Word, we can apply it in our lives. Also, we must hear and obey the advice of respected people. Wise counselors have been through experiences and endured trials we have not yet encountered. They can look at our situations more objectively and with varied viewpoints. Good Christian discernment means putting ourselves, our decisions and our lives into God’s hands.
Solomon was different from other people. When others would ask for something for themselves, Solomon asked for something that would benefit God’s people and, ultimately, God’s plan. When the typical request would be to ask for health or wisdom, Solomon asked for understanding and wisdom.
Solomon’s not wishing for material things was the reason he got them. People who do not make wealth their priority are the people who can be most safely trusted with it and who, when they receive it, usually enjoy it the most.
God gives sufficiency to the one upon whom He confers responsibility, to the one who doesn’t rush into an office or responsibility but rather is called to the task by God. In Solomon’s case the need God met with His sufficiency was the need for divine wisdom, a wisdom that made Solomon legendary.
Our deepest thoughts are held in our hearts. In Hebrews 4:12, Scripture claims to be “sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” If we walk in close fellowship with God, and His Word is at home in our hearts, then we will pray for things that bring God glory. If we pray for self-indulgent things, then it will be doubtful that we are maintaining a living communion with God and that His Word is at home in our hearts.
The passage from 1 Kings is not a “gospel” of prosperity and success. The Bible does not call us to succeed, to be prosperous, or to be wealthy. God calls us to choose responsibly before God. He calls us to live a lifestyle of integrity and commitment to Him. He calls us to serve Him, first and only.
There is an old saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unfortunately, as we will learn later on in Scripture, another side of Solomon emerged. Before the author described the glory of Solomon’s reign, he first pointed to seeds of disobedience that would eventually take down Solomon’s kingdom. Solomon loved God but disobeyed him at the same time by marrying Ammonitish and Egyptian wives. In addition, he began to worship in forbidden places. He also carried out the assassinations David ordered before his death. Solomon built the kingdom of his dreams-a kingdom of wealth, prestige and power-by levying taxes his subjects could not bear. He used forced labour to complete his building projects. He satisfied his desires by assembling a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines or mistresses. That disobedience led to apostasy and the eventual division of his kingdom. Solomon’s own dreams left God’s dreams in the dust.
Solomon’s life is an example of the superhuman power of evil. If you give it an inch in your life, it will take a mile. If you give it a foothold, it will run rampant, get the upper hand and destroy your life. There are a few lessons we can learn from Solomon’s life:
- To hunger for wisdom is the beginning of wisdom.
- It’s possible to lose God’s dream in our dream.
- It’s possible to “hog” God. Using God to legitimize our own decisions and to satisfy our own desires is dangerous, especially if it denies other people the right to appeal to God.
- Wealth is not blessing.
The humility of an understanding heart births a spirit that is sensitive to what God says through His word and His people. The word “discern” comes from the same root as the word “between” and refers to the ability to choose between two options. The additional gifts of riches and honour, along with the conditional offer of a long life, signaled God’s pleasure at Solomon’s request.
If we summarize these verses, we will find some very clear and concise principles related to our asking God:
- God wants us to ask Him to meet all of our needs.
- God delights in revealing to us His desires and His ways of doing things.
- We can ask God for all things, including those that relate to the natural world.
- We are wise to ask in agreement with others.
- We must always ask in faith and in the name of Jesus.
- God will respond to our need not in a way that opposes His commandments, but in a way that pleases Him and brings Him glory.
- We can be assured that whenever we ask God for something, He hears and responds to us, giving us precisely what we need-which may not be what we think we need, but which always benefits us the most.
If you were given Solomon’s opportunity to ask for anything, what would you choose? Would your requests benefit others if God granted them? Ask God for your heart’s desire. Trust in God’s generosity to you.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 443,445-446)
- Dilday, R. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 9: 1,2 Kings (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 58-65)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- “Popular Nonsense.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Bayless Conley, “A Prosperous Attitude.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastore Greg Laurie, “A Wise Prayer.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Rick Ezell, “Ask for Wisdom.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Rev. Dr. Timothy T. Boggess, “Skills or Gills.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “The Wisdom of Discernment.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- Vikki Burke, “From Ordinary to Extraordinary.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cameron R.B. Howard, “Commentary on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1358
- Debie Thomas, “A King’s Tale.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net/essays/324-a-king-s-tale
- Howard Wallace, “Year B: Pentecost 11, August 16, 2009: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14.” Retrieved from http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/OrdinaryB/Pentecost11.html
- Dennis Bratcher, “A Lost Future: Reflections on 1 Kings 3:7-15, 11:1-6.” Retrieved from www.crivoice.org/1kng3.html