A Son Requests Wisdom (pt.2)

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Leader Guide ESV, Unit 12, Session 1
© 2019 LifeWay Christian Resources, Permission granted to reproduce and distribute within the license agreement with purchaser. Edited by Rev. Lex DeLong, M.A., Sept 2022.
Up to the time of Solomon, no ANE empire had greater influence over the land of Canaan than did Egypt. Nevertheless, for the period during the reign of Saul and David (c.a. 1050-970 B.C.), preceding Solomon’s reign, Egypt was weaker than it had been in times past. Egyptian historians call this time period the Twenty-First Dynasty (ca. 1069-945 B.C.), which is part of the Third Intermediate Period (1069-656 B.C.). It was marked by chaos, disunity, confusion, and a decentralized government. It was divided and was ruled by two independent dynasties, one in Upper Egypt to the south (ruled by powerful military leaders and high priests) and one in Lower Egypt to the North (ruled by nobility).
The end of that Twenty-First dynasty came after Solomon’s marriage, but during Solomon’s later reign. It came at the hand of Shishak (1 Kings 11:40; 14:25; 2 Chron. 12:2-9). Shishak was responsible for consolidating the two dynasties into one. He regrew their wealth and strength, and began to see Solomon as an obstacle and rival to his ambitions to restore Egypt’s prominence.
Regarding other nations, God blessed Solomon not only by making him both militarily and economically strong, but also by making Israel’s enemies and potential enemies weak. Those who were on friendly terms with Solomon were blessed themselves. Such a situation is reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham to bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him (Gen. 12:1-3). God worked both in the smallest details to bless Israel and on the grander scale of the entire ANE in order to fulfill His Promises to His people.
Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1) prior to the unifying of the two Egyptian Dynasties and their return to power. Most scholars believe that Pharaoh, father-in-law to Solomon, was Siamun (978-959 B.C.), from the Northern Dynasty, nearing the end of the Twenty-First Egyptian Dynasty (about 12 or so years before the end) and Egypt's consolidation back into one, more powerful and prominent Dynasty.
Summary and Goal
In this session we meet Solomon, the third and final king of Israel’s golden age as a united kingdom. In 2 Samuel 7:11-13, God promised to establish an eternal kingdom through King David and his descendants. The life of Solomon shows God making good on that promise. We will see that Solomon began his reign with the humble acknowledgment that he didn’t know how to do what he had been called on to do. So he asked God for wisdom. God is all-knowing; He is the source of all wisdom. The pattern for obedience we learn from Solomon is simple yet profound:
We ask for wisdom...
++God provides wisdom...
++We exercise that wisdom.
When we make decisions according to God’s wisdom, the world stands in awe.
Session Outline
++The Request for Wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-9, ASK)
++The Gift of Wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-15, TRUST GOD WANTS TO AND WILL GIVE YOU WISDOM)
++The Exercise of Wisdom (1 Kings 3:23-28, TRUST AND USE THE WISDOM GOD GIVES YOU)
Session in a Sentence
God gives His people wisdom from above, but His people need to use that wisdom with a heart focused on the Lord.
Christ Connection
Solomon reigned with great wisdom and insight, yet he was still an imperfect king who needed God’s forgiveness. Solomon foreshadows the coming of a greater king—Jesus, in whom are hidden
“all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
Missional Application
Because we have received God’s perfect wisdom in Christ Jesus, we depend on His wisdom from above to live as a testimony to our all-wise God.
What would be difficult about succeeding a popular, successful leader?
(wanting to change things to your own preferences; dealing with the comparisons made between you and the previous leader; not being trusted by those you are leading)
In this session we meet Solomon, the third and final king of Israel’s golden age as a united kingdom. Solomon succeeded his popular and successful father, King David. Solomon began his reign with the humble acknowledgment that he didn’t know how to do what he had been called on to do. So he asked God for wisdom. God is all-knowing; He is the source of all wisdom. The pattern for obedience we learn from Solomon is simple yet profound: We ask for wisdom; God provides wisdom; and we exercise that wisdom. When we make decisions according to God’s wisdom, the world stands in awe.

Point 1: The Request for Wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-9, ASK)

· The Book of 1 Kings opens with Adonijah, the oldest surviving son of David (see 2 Sam. 13; 18), vying for the throne (1 Kings 1:5-10). But Adonijah’s power grab was thwarted by Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, who reminded David of his intention for Solomon to succeed him (1:11-27).
So David himself organized Solomon’s coronation parade (1:28-40). Then David, on his deathbed, made Solomon swear to execute justice on two of his political enemies (2:1-9), an oath he fulfilled (2:28-46).
Furthermore, Adonijah attempted a second coup and was executed for it (2:13-25). Finally, Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh of Egypt by marrying his daughter (3:1). Solomon loved the Lord by following in the steps of David, but he also followed some misguided practices regarding his worship of the Lord (3:2-4).
In most monarchies of the time, the firstborn son is generally considered to be the heir to the throne. But Solomon wasn’t David’s oldest son, far from it he was tenth - in fact (1 Chron. 3:1-5). But God often violates our social norms to bring attention to His divine ways. Isaac was Abraham’s second-born (Gen. 17:15-19). Jacob was Isaac’s second-born (Gen. 25:24-26). Judah was Jacob’s fourth born, and Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh-born (Gen. 29–30). Even David was the youngest of his brothers (1 Sam. 16:6-13).
Read 1 Kings 3:5-9 (DDG p. 95).
5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, 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 this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 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?”
DDG (p. 95)
In the preamble to his answer to God’s question, Solomon acknowledged that the only reason he was king in the first place was because God was faithful to the promise He had made to his father, David. It took humility for Solomon to admit that he was in the position he was in because of his father’s faithfulness and not because of his own abilities. Furthermore, he acknowledged that the task of leadership in front of him was too large for him. It also demonstrated a trust in God to equip him with the ability to do what God had anointed him to do as king.
· Solomon considered himself a young man having no leadership experience (v. 7), nor did he believe God had chosen him specifically for any hidden leadership skills, being that he was just one among the people of Israel God had chosen (v. 8).
· Solomon’s admission of his lack of leadership experience is all the more remarkable when you consider all the events that happened in chapters 1–2. Solomon could have pointed out his leadership in dealing with Adonijah and carrying out David’s deathbed wishes. Even David already considered his son a wise man (2:9). But there is a difference between earthly wisdom and wisdom from above (Jas. 3:13-18).
James 3:13–18 NASB
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Why is humility so important when requesting wisdom from the Lord?
(without humility, we will already be wise in our own eyes; without humility, we will ask the Lord for wisdom in order to boast, promote ourselves, or profit from His gift; so we ask for the things according to His will, not ours)
DDG (p. 95)
In humility before the Lord, Solomon asked for an understanding mind to lead his people well and discern between good and evil. Solomon was asking for what would position him to succeed as Israel’s king over a long reign: God-given wisdom that would guide him through any situation he faced. He was also asking for a mind-set willing to accept direction and correction from the Lord. With so many glamorous options before him, Solomon chose wisdom to be a blessing to his people as king.
Do we hesitate to ask God for wisdom and if so, why?
It is easy to forget that God wants to give us good things…like wisdom, direction, strength, clarity, and comfort.

Point 2: The Gift of Wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-15, TRUST GOD WANTS TO AND WILL GIVE YOU WISDOM)

Read 1 Kings 3:10-15 (DDG p. 96).
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.
DDG (p. 96)
Solomon received instant feedback from the Lord that He was pleased with Solomon’s request. But we cannot detach Solomon’s request from his motive behind that request. Had Solomon asked for long life, riches, or the death of his enemies, these would have indicated that Solomon’s chief preoccupation was himself. Instead, Solomon sought wisdom so he could administer justice for God’s people. Solomon cared more about God’s people than himself.
That is the heart posture of a person in whom God delights.
· Request: God is pleased when His people ask for wisdom and ask for things that align with His purposes and will. He doesn’t criticize His people for asking Him for wisdom but delights to give it, and His Word promises He will give it. It makes perfect sense to ask God for wisdom because He is omnipotent (He can do all things), He is omniscient (He knows all things), and He is compassionate and loving (He is pleased to give you all good things).
· Motive: God heard Solomon’s words and looked beyond the surface of Solomon’s request to his heart behind it. When He did, God was pleased by the motive He saw in Solomon. Instead of capitalizing on what appeared to be a golden opportunity to secure much for himself, Solomon focused on God’s people and God’s glory in what he requested.
James 4:3 NASB
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
1 Samuel 16:7 NASB
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
That verse tells us that our motives need to be the first thing we put under the microscope when we find our prayers are not being answered. Our desires should line up with God’s desires, just as Solomon’s request matched God’s heart for justice and His concern for the poor and oppressed among His people (see Deut. 15:7-8; Isa. 58:6-7; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:8; Zech. 7:9-10). This is because we consider what we see on the exterior of others, but God looks on the heart. This can be both a warning and a comfort.
It is a warning, because there is no false image to be projected to God. We might be able to fool others, but God knows our hearts. If we are just going through the motions of Christianity, without truly exercising relationship in love with God through Jesus Christ, then we fall woefully short of God’s intent.
It can also be a comfort, because with God, there is no misunderstanding, no misjudging or misreading intentions. God is not impressed with performance, He is pleased with hearts that seek Him. No matter how imperfect I am, God knows my sincerity in what I think, say, and do. Certainly King David is identified as one who is “after God’s own heart.” Solomon here, also seems to have a good start with a heart that was in the right place.
So, God looking at the heart can be both a warning and a blessing. Right at this moment, how does God see your heart? Be one who directs your heart toward God and know the peace of seeking Him in all you do (Prov. 3:5-6).
Fill in the blanks: DDG (p. 96)
God Is Omniscient: Scripture teaches that God is all-knowing. He is the One who “is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16), and this knowledge extends to all things past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. His knowledge is complete, and as He is outside of time, He has known from all eternity whatever will come to pass. In response to God’s omniscience, we admit our finite knowledge and trust His decisions as wise and good.
DDG (p. 96)
God answered Solomon’s request—He made him the wisest human being in all of history. And more than that, God was so pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom that He also blessed Him with honor, riches, and the potential for a long life. Giving generously to His children is at the center of God’s heart. He is our loving Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11).
Matthew 7:11 NASB
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
· Solomon was given Wisdom: Solomon composed three thousand proverbs and one thousand and five songs. He also gained scientific knowledge of trees, animals, birds, reptiles, and fish (1 Kings 4:29,32-33). In this we see the scale of God’s generous gift of wisdom: it far surpassed what was needed for Solomon to rule over God’s people. God delights in not merely meeting our needs and requests but surpassing them.
·Solomon was given Honor: Solomon was known around the world for his wisdom and prosperity. Kings sent envoys to listen to his wisdom and counsel (4:30-31,34; 10:23-24), and the Queen of Sheba acknowledged the greatness of his wisdom and prosperity (10:1-8).
· Solomon was given Riches:Solomon’s wealth was so vast (10:14-29) that the people didn’t even bother to count silver in Israel, as if it were the value of pennies (10:21). We must understand that God does not guarantee material riches to His faithful followers, even if they ask for wisdom. What we can be sure of is that when our desires are in line with God’s desires, He works powerfully in us beyond what we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20).
Ephesians 3:20 NASB
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
Why do you think God wants us to ask Him for wisdom instead of just giving it to us?
(this is an opportunity to humble ourselves before God; so He can bless us far beyond we ask or think; so we recognize He is the source of true wisdom; to counteract our inclination toward pride or self-reliance)

Point 3: The Exercise of Wisdom (1 Kings 3:23-28, TRUST AND USE THE WISDOM GOD GIVES YOU)

In 1 Kings 3:16-22, we learn that two prostitutes lived in the same house, and each gave birth to a son. When one son died in the night, his mother switched him with the other woman’s son and then claimed that the living son was hers. There were no witnesses in the house at the time to vouch for either woman. So to settle the argument between them, they brought the case to King Solomon to judge.
Solomon had asked the Lord for discernment. To discern something is to divide truth from fiction, right from wrong, God’s ways from the world’s ways. How fitting, then, that in the first test of Solomon’s new God-given wisdom, his solution was to divide a baby, literally.
Read: 1 Kings 3:23-28 (DDG p. 97)
23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’ ” 24 And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” 27 Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” 28 And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.
DDG (p. 97)
It says much about God’s heart for the marginalized that this first recorded test of Solomon’s wisdom was not for the benefit of a wealthy prince but to settle a dispute between two prostitutes who had no standing in society. Solomon was able to look past the degrading label of “prostitute” to see that this situation involved a mother. In calling for the living child to be cut in half, Solomon was counting on the true mother’s maternal instinct to win out over greed and deception. When she displayed her selfless compassion for her child, he was able to give her justice along with her son.
Voices from the Church
“From the beginning of Scripture to the end, we see a God who longs for justice and righteousness in the world and who calls us as his people to join him in seeking it. And that’s part of what it means to be God’s people.” 1 –Kristen Deede Johnson
· Though the woman whose child was still living, was a prostitute, she was an image-bearer of God and thus God desired for those who had the power and position to advocate for her, no matter her place in society. Solomon himself would later write:
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov. 31:8).
James also writes:
James 1:27 NASB
This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
· Like all the other gifts of God, our wisdom is to be used for the benefit of others, not merely for our own benefit. As we steward well God’s gifts in this way, we follow the pattern God has set before us in giving the greatest gift of all—Jesus Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection brought about great good for us, a sinful people who had no standing before our holy God.
DDG (p. 97)
While Solomon’s wise judgment in this case certainly established his credibility to lead, his people rightly understood that Solomon’s wisdom came not from himself but from God (1 Kings 3:28). A person employing God-given wisdom never draws selfish attention to himself or herself. Instead, God-given wisdom informs the ultimate purpose of that wisdom: to bring glory to God.
· Hiram, the pagan king of Tyre, praised the Lord for giving David such a wise son in Solomon (1 Kings 5:7). And another pagan ruler, the Queen of Sheba, was so amazed with Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity that she too gave glory to God (1 Kings 10:9). The blessings of God upon Solomon directed people’s attention to the One who rightly deserves all praise and glory—the God of all wisdom.
Illustration: “If you’ve ever driven into Washington, DC, on Interstate 395 late at night, you’ve seen the magnificent splendor of the Washington Monument like a shining ivory needle illuminated against the night sky. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of lights shine directly on the stone pillar, memorializing the father of our country. Yet I doubt you have ever noticed, or maybe even thought about, those expensive, brilliant lights. That’s because they are there to illuminate something else. If they are doing their job, you’re not thinking about them; you’re thinking about the Washington Monument.” 2
What is the challenge to giving God the glory when using God-given wisdom to bless others?
(our own sinful pride; the rejection of others who refuse to glorify God; a sense of awkwardness to deflect others’ praise to the Lord; our sinful desires that distract us from God’s wisdom and will)
My Mission
Though wise beyond precedent, Solomon wasn’t perfect, and he would commit some grievous sins after being given wisdom by God.
When Solomon exercised godly wisdom, insight, and compassion, as he did with his ruling in the case of the two prostitutes, he honored the gift of wisdom that God had given him.
When he ignored the gift of God in lieu of his feelings and selfish desires, he made decisions that were not only…not in line with the wisdom God had given him, it was not in harmony with his own heart of humility that asked for the wisdom in the first place.
Session in a Sentence
God gives His people wisdom from above, but His people need to use that wisdom with a heart focused on the Lord.
DDG (p. 98)
· What is one area of your life in which you need to seek God’s wisdom right now? Pray to God for His wisdom.
· How will you live and speak this week so that others may exalt the Lord?
Voices from Church History
“Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds [and a focused heart].” 3 –Clement of Rome (c. 30-100)
Close in prayer:
1. Kristen Deede Johnson, “Justice and Our Callings: Exploring a Biblical Theology of Justice from Genesis to Revelation,” in “Kristen Deede Johnson: Exploring a Biblical Theology of Justice,” Intersect, November 15, 2018, http://intersectproject.org/faith-and-culture/kristen-deede-johnson-exploring-a-biblical-theology-of-justice.
2. J. D. Greear, Jesus, Continued… (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 23-24.
3. Clement of Rome, First Clement, in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Additional Volume, ed. Allan Menzies (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1903), 240.
4. Paul R. House, 1, 2 Kings, vol. 8 in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003) [Wordsearch].
5. T. J. Betts, “The World Situation in Solomon’s Day,” Biblical Illustrator (Summer 2016): 70.
6. Gary Inrig, I & II Kings, in Holman Old Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2009) [Wordsearch].
7. “1 Kings,” Worldview Study Bible (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2018), 390, n. 3:7-14.
8. Iain W. Provan, “1–2 Kings,” in ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 598, n. 3:11-14.
9. August H. Konkel, 1 & 2 Kings, in The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015) [Wordsearch].
10. Havilah Dharamraj, “1 Kings,” in South Asia Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Brian Wintle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 412.
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