In 1 Kings 2 we meet Solomon for the first time, famous now for his wealth and glory (“surely Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed …”), for his 700 wives, for his meeting with the Queen of Sheba and for building the first temple to God. But he is renowned most for his wisdom. He is the second son born to David and Bathsheba, and the first born in wedlock. He has just become King on the death of David.
God appears to the young King in a dream and says: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” If God appeared to us in this way, how would we respond? We are used to asking God for many things in our prayers, but with confidence that he will lovingly sift our supplications and grant only what is truly beneficial. This seems like quite a different proposition, and one that needs careful thought.
Solomon is thankfully free of the hubris of youth and deeply aware of the daunting job he has inherited, so he asks for wisdom and discernment so that he will govern well. God is so pleased with this answer that he also grants Solomon what he did not ask for – wealth and honour.
Wisdom is not just intelligence or knowledge. We all know many clever people who are not wise. Wisdom is not a quality we seem to value any more in our culture, so it is not surprising that it seems in short supply. If we look back through the world leaders we have known, are there any we could call wise? Abraham Lincoln perhaps.
The paradox of this story is that Solomon must have been wise enough already, in order to ask God for the gift of wisdom.