1Kings 3:3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask what I should give you." 6 And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?" 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life."
Solomon has large shoes to fill: He succeeds two warrior kings – Saul and David. These were the leaders who used their warrior prowess to carve out a new national pride for the people of the Covenant. Now Solomon takes over the throne of David and offers prayers for his success. But instead of asking to become a mighty man of military skill and bravery, he asks for “an understanding mind” to govern the people well. God grants him “a wise and discerning mind”, adding that this can lead to many other attributes as well – including “riches and honour”.
I am struck by how many of us choose to spend our time and energy in the pursuit of riches, honour and fame rather than in cultivating understanding minds. In fact it seems that wealth and success arises from a single-minded determination not to be distracted by anything else but one’s own goals. The purpose-driven life excludes values like understanding and empathy for the needs of others.
Those who follow Jesus can learn from King Solomon: to desire “a wise and discerning mind”, that we might walk in the ways of God.