The story of Solomon is a familiar one. After ascending to David's throne over the nation of Israel, God speaks directly to him, with a seemingly unprecedented offer: "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."
We know his answer. Solomon famously requests for wisdom so as to be able to properly lead his people. And we know God's response. Not only does he grant Solomon this wisdom, he makes him the wisest of all men. Not stopping there, God gives him all the things he might have asked for instead:
God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”We have, most likely, heard the story before. But ask yourself, what would you say if God appeared in your dreams and said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you?" How would you respond? I doubt many of us would answer with a materialistic desire, as we would realize the gravity of the moment and of the one asking the question. We might avoid a foolish answer, but we may still not give the best answer.
|Dream of Solomon by Luca Giordano, c. 1693|
Solomon's response, however, was exactly what God was wanting to hear. His answer was so perfect, in fact, that it opened the floodgates of God's blessings. Normally, as we read this passage, it is easy to view Solomon as a pious young ruler whose request, made in holiness, impresses God. I would argue, however, that Solomon made his request for wisdom not out of piety, but out of practicality. I imagine him as a young ruler genuinely filled with trepidation at the responsibility placed upon him, and at the tasks ahead of him.
Furthermore, I would argue that Solomon asks for wisdom precisely because he already has it. It would be foolish to think that Solomon had no real wisdom before this moment, and the text makes it clear that he was indeed wise. He survives, first of all, in tumultuous times, to become the unlikely heir of his father, and then begins his reign with public pronouncements and appearances which demonstrate a certain level of aptitude. Further, his very answer to God is a wise answer -- he does not ask for something frivolous. In short, Solomon seizes upon a gift God has already granted him and asks God to strengthen it and increase it, for the good of others. That, I believe, is what makes Solomon's response so special.
God's outpouring of grace then shows us what Solomon surely knew: God has all things at his disposal, and blessing us is of no difficulty to him whatsoever. God proves in this story what Jesus would someday preach: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) In seeking first the wisdom to lead, God would prove to Solomon that he would never want for the material things of life either.
I would argue that God confronts us every day with the question, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." It is a life-changing question that we answer with a grunt every day, usually without a second thought. And yet, we are invited to believe in the power of God to effect change in our lives day after day.
Imagine the power that could be unleashed if each of us thought of one gift God had already entrusted us with, and asked him to strengthen it even further, just as Solomon did. For God, it is an easy task. For us, it is an exercise in faith.
So how will you answer the ever-present question once put to King Solomon? You may not ask for wisdom, but a wise choice can still be made.