Solomon the scholar

What would you ask God to do if you could ask him for anything at all?

Appears in Fall 2009 Issue: Making the most of college (fourth annual)
September 1st, 2009

If God should pose a carte blanche question like this to you: "What do you want me to do for you?"—how would you answer. . . honestly? What would you ask God to do if you could ask him for anything at all? An offer like this one is sure to reveal the earnest desires of our hearts.

Little did King Solomon know that God would ask him this very question on a momentous night in the city of Gibeon, where he had spent the day offering a thousand sacrifices and worshipping God. According to 1 Kings 3:5, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said to him: "Ask what I shall give you." Solomon's wish was God's command.

The king quite likely pondered this question for a while. Several responses, some of them probably self-serving, may have danced like sugarplums in his head. Eventually he came up with his final answer. Solomon knew that his position as Israel's king was a faithful fulfillment of God's promise to his father David to seat one of his sons on his throne. Solomon's political task was so daunting to him, however, that he considered himself but a little child who did not even know how to go out or to come in. Consequently, in response to God's free rein proposal, Solomon said: "Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" (1 Kings 3:9).

This answer pleased God, and he gave Solomon exactly what he asked for—a wise and discerning heart that he might be an intelligent and competent leader of God's people. Since Solomon did not selfishly request riches, wealth, honour, long life or victory over his enemies, God gave Solomon these blessings anyway. The abundance of Solomon's wisdom and prosperity meant that no one would or could come close to him in grandeur, at least not for a very long time.

Solomon promptly displayed his ability to administer justice when he identified in a rather cunning way the real mother of a young boy when two women were fiercely claiming him as their child. In light of his great intellectual gifts and wealth, Solomon also initiated one of the most ambitious academic enterprises the world has ever known, though his efforts in this regard are sometimes ignored. For you see, Solomon was not only a wise ruler, but also a man of immense intelligence, and his remarkable scholarly achievements and cultural contributions are summarized for us in 1 Kings 4:29-34.

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