On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: I Kings 3:5-9. "In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
6 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before Thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with Thee; and Thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7 And now, O LORD my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8 And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which Thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9 Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?"
Introduction: When asked by his parents what he learned in Sunday school, one little boy said, "We talked about one of King David's sons named Solomon. He had, like, 300 wives and 500 porcupines. They told us that he was a really wise man, but that doesn't sound too wise to me."
Solomon is known for many things, such as his many wives. I'm not so sure about the porcupines. Solomon's legacy however, was his wisdom. Solomon has always had the reputation of being the wisest king Israel ever had. The wisdom came early in his reign, and the wives came later. Solomon's wisdom lifted him and the nation he ruled up, and his wives brought them both down!
While Solomon was visiting Gibeon to offer sacrifices, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. This was no Aladdin's lamp story! The God of the universe offered Solomon the wish of a lifetime. God would give Solomon anything he desired as the king of Israel. What a test! Solomon would certainly reveal his heart by the request he made of God. Would he ask for wealth and riches? What about power and fame? Solomon could have the world delivered to his doorstep, but instead, he chose wisdom. Solomon asked for wisdom, but a closer focus on his request, reveals wisdom was just part of Solomon's desire. Even wisdom could be used for selfish, self-serving purposes. Solomon also asked for the ability to discern between good and evil.
Notice verse 9. "Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?" The phrase "understanding heart," speaks of a listening heart, a heart that will hear. Listen to who? Hear what? Hear what God and His law has to say. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." James 1:5 says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Wisdom begins with reverencing God. We fear or reverence God, when we seek His counsel and listen with the intent to obey! It is the fool who refuses to seek and heed instruction from God and His Word. While Solomon was given wisdom or a listening heart, he was also given the ability to discern between good and bad. He said in verse 9b, "...that I may discern between good and bad." Christian discernment is just that, it is the ability to make good, God-centered choices. Solomon was given unprecedented, unparalleled wisdom and discernment!
Solomon's wisdom and discernment was demonstrated early on. In I Kings 3:16-28, two women who were prostitutes asked the king to solve the dispute over which of their babies had died during the night. One woman accused the other of rolling over her own child during the night killing it, and then switching it out with her baby which was still alive. The other woman of course denied it, and vowed that the opposite was true. They each claimed the living baby as their own. Unfortunately, there were no D. N. A. tests available! Solomon's response was to take a sword, and proceed to cut the living baby in half! This of course revealed the baby's true mother, who would rather give her baby away, than see it die. All Israel recognized Solomon's wise and discerning heart, and marveled! From there, Solomon's reputation as a wise and discerning man, grew and grew! I Kings 4:29-30 reads, "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 30 And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt."
Solomon's request for wisdom and discernment is impressive in two ways.
First, it reveals a humble heart and spirit. There is not one hint of pride in Solomon's request to God. The mighty king views himself and his ability to lead as that of a little child! The candidates for President and Vice President are traveling the nation telling everyone just how they are qualified for the office. Solomon was just the opposite! The key to his wisdom was his attitude. Solomon considered himself little more than a child who was dependent on his Father's wisdom. Solomon knew his limitations.
Second, this request reveals a profound sense of dependence upon God. Children need adult supervision. They have no past experience to judge what us good or bad, what is helpful and what is harmful. Solomon expresses his total dependence on the Lord to go before him and protect him from himself. Here Solomon is quick to acknowledge his frailty and vulnerability.
God was pleased with Solomon's request. We hear God's response to Solomon's request in I Kings 3:10-15. "And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. 13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. 14 And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. 15 And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants." This teaches us that God values wisdom and discernment, and honors those who desire and seek it in their lives. The Lord was so pleased with this new leader, that He gave Solomon what he didn't request. In addition to wisdom and discernment, God gave him riches and fame!
In Solomon's day, kingship in the Eastern world meant absolute power, wealth, and usually oppression and cruelty. Solomon clearly chose a different style of kingship. He rejected the pursuit of power, and chose instead to govern with God's wisdom, and the spirit of a servant. Jesus taught this same style of leadership. He taught His disciples to be servant leaders! In Matthew 20:25-28 we read, "But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Jesus refused to lead by force, fear and intimidation. Jesus instead, led by example. On one occasion, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and then told them in John 13:15-17, "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be servant leaders.
God is still calling out leaders. He calls a different kind of leader.
Paul Borthwick, in his book Leading the Way said,
The world needs leaders...
who cannot be bought;
whose word is their promise;
who put character above wealth;
who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocations;
who do not hesitate to take chances;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be honest in small things as well as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who will not say they do it "because everybody else does it";
who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as in prosperity;
who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular, who can say no with emphasis, although the rest of the world says yes.
Our nation is pre-occupied with selecting a President. We go through a long process and spend an unbelievable amount of money to assess the candidates and make our selection. Why? We seem to still know that leadership is very important. Everything rises and falls with leadership. Someone said, "The only safe ship in a storm, is leadership." Solomon reminds us as to what we should look for when choosing those who lead us, whether it be our nation, state, church or homes. God desires wise and discerning leaders to lead His people.
From Solomon's example, we are able to identify: Six Characteristics Of A Wise And Discerning Leader
First: A wise and discerning leader, has a heart for God. Solomon wanted to be a good and effective king, and he realized that this could only happen, if God directed him. His own father David, was known to be "...a man after God's own heart." While David was still alive, he told his son Solomon in I Chronicles 28:9, "And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever." Here, early in Solomon's reign, Solomon reveals that he has that heart for God like his father, David.
What does it mean to have a heart for God? A person who has a heart for God, makes time to seek His face. God is at the center. A person who has a heart for God, desires an intimate relationship with Him. As we seek God, He reveals Himself to us. James 4:8a promises, "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you."
Second: A wise and discerning leader, has a proper view of self. Solomon viewed himself as a child. If Solomon was full of himself, surely he would have made a much different request to God. Solomon certainly knew and was greatly impacted by his father's poor choices and moral indiscretions. David was a great man, but a flawed man. Someone said, "The acorn doesn't fall very far from the tree." Solomon seems to have a sense of his own weakness and propensity to sin. He is quick to look to God for divine help and direction.
God's leader has a healthy, honest view of himself or herself. All people, no matter how connected, gifted or talented, are sinners with a fallen, sinful nature. The human heart is deceitful and wicked. It cannot be trusted. Sometimes we have great faith to lead, and other times we are faithless! This honest, biblical view of ourselves should attach us to God, His Word and Holy Spirit. We must view ourselves as our own worst enemy, and God as our greatest friend and ally.
Third: A wise and discerning leader, views Scripture as God's final Word. Psalm 72 is a psalm written by Solomon, commemorating this gift of God. Solomon writes in verses 1-2, "Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king's son. 2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment." God demanded that the Kings of Israel know and meditate in the law. Psalm 119:105 reads, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
The lines between right and wrong, between good and bad can become blurred, and even disappear in our present culture. The only way a leader can know the difference, is to know the Word of God. Whatever the issue, whatever the decision, God's Word will direct us to the truth, either by a clear commandment, or by a principle. Isaiah 8:20 says, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
Fourth: A wise and discerning leader, has a proper view of those he or she leads. In I Kings 3:9b, Solomon tells us why he desires wisdom a discerning heart. He says, "....for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?" Solomon was humbled by the task of leading Israel. He considered it a great responsibility and wanted to provide the best leadership possible! It is clear that Solomon is placing the people's interest over his own. In Psalm 72:3-4, Solomon lets us know that he sought to care for everyone in his kingdom, no matter how small. He says, "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. 4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor."
A good spiritual leader is interested in the welfare of the people he serves. Rather than focus on personal gain or looking good, he or she should be watching out for the interest of the people. Leadership is not about getting our way or being served by others. Leadership is about serving others, doing what is best for them, even at our own expense. It is very insightful that God speaks of His leaders as shepherds. Shepherds care about one thing, providing for and protecting the flock! They are willing to stand between a predator and the sheep. A shepherd will go after and search for lost sheep.
Fifth: A wise and discerning leader, is willing to wait on God for direction and confirmation. Solomon prays for and receives an "understanding" or listening heart. This implies that Solomon was willing to seek God's direction, and wait to hear the answer. The first king of Israel, Saul was rejected by God because he refused to wait on the man of God, Samuel!
A good leader prays over decisions, prays for direction and waits for an answer. G. Campbell Morgan once said, "Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given." Psalms 25:5 says, "Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day."
Sixth: A wise and discerning leader, is determined to obey God's Word and direction, no matter the consequences. In I Kings 3:14, the Lord makes it clear that everything depended on Solomon's continued obedience to Him and His Law. "And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days." This is where Solomon went wrong. The king's listening heart over time, became a divided heart. Solomon ruled his kingdom well. He united the land conquered by David, and forged an empire. To secure the borders of his empire, Solomon made alliances and signed treaties with rulers of the surrounding nations. In the ancient world, marriage often sealed political and military agreements between kingdoms. As Solomon's power grew, so did the number of his wives and concubines. His foreign wives brought with them their own gods to worship. Solomon not only allowed the worship of these foreign gods, he built temples for them. Solomon over time, decided it was more important to keep his wives happy, which would assure continued peace in the empire, than to obey God. The more Solomon dabbled with alien ideas of God, the less devoted he became to Yahweh, the God of Israel. His zeal for God, so strong early in his reign, began to fade.
Charles Stanley's life principle number two says, "Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him." This is what a leader must be willing to do above all things! Sad to say, in our world and nation, doing the right thing will not always be applauded. Sometimes doing the right thing will get you in trouble! Spiritual discernment almost always will cause division. God's leader must be willing to stand with God and suffer the consequences!
In Matthew 12:42, Jesus declared Himself to be greater than Solomon. Solomon eventually failed and passed away. Jesus never fails and abides forever. Solomon changed over time. His heart became corrupt. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever! You can pattern your life and leadership after Him! Everyone of us are leaders in some area of our lives. Do you take a stand for God's Word, when others attack it in your presence? Do you possess the discernment to know what is right and consistent with God and His Word?
Are you willing to take a stand for God and His Word?
Presently, there is a petition to remove all religious programs off the airwaves. Be ready! Change is around the corner, and it is not all good! Christians need to be prepared to stand and defend the cause of Christ in this nation!