The Wisdom of Solomon
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

It is usual to describe Solomon as being a wise man, the saying ‘He has the wisdom of Solomon’ is commonly used throughout the world, in Christian and secular settings.  Where did his wisdom come from?  Of what benefit was it to him?  How can we learn from him and gain some of that wisdom?

We meet our hero in today’s readings with a couple of verses that are there specifically to set the scene for us.  It is established that King David has died and has been buried after a reign of forty years and now Solomon is king and his rule has been firmly established.

Then we learn a little of what he’s been up to, apparently he has been following the instructions that his father David had given him about worshipping God, but he had modified things a bit.  Rather than offering sacrifices in Jerusalem, he was making the approximately seven mile trek to Gibeon to make sacrifices on the high places.  Those high places were not sanctioned!  And to add to it Solomon was offering a thousand burnt offerings, he wasn’t doing things by halves.

Solomon had been learning from his father and following in his footsteps, but like his father, took things into his own hands and did things in his own way.  Then when God appeared to him in a dream he said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you”.  Now who here wouldn’t want God to ask them a question like that?  For most of us it would be like asking what would you do if you won the lottery, or if a genie came along and gave you three wishes, we would get all excited and think about the wealth of possibilities.  But Solomon knowing how kind God had been to his father asked for God to give him a discerning heart to govern his people and that he might be able to distinguish between right and wrong.

God’s response was to give him what he asked for but then far more, he gave him what others would have asked for, wealth and honour. So that in his lifetime there would be no equal among kings.  There was a bit of an obedience clause built in, Solomon had to walk in obedience to God and keep his decrees and commands as his father David did.

This is truly a loving and gracious God.  We know the history of King David, who even though God continually blessed him and cared for him, did many things that would have offended God and that weren’t actually in accordance with his commands and decrees.  Solomon’s mother was of course Bathsheba, the one whom David had seduced while she was still married to Urriah the Hittite, the same man that David had organised his death so that he could have Bathsheba as his wife.

As I mentioned earlier, Solomon was far from perfect himself.  Even though he was worshipping the right God he wasn’t doing it in accordance with the commands and decrees of God.  He had also taken an Egyptian wife even though the law said that the Israelites shouldn’t marry foreign women, and then he brought her into the city of David and showed her off to all.  And that is just a couple of examples, there are many more.

So what do we learn from all of this?  Firstly we are reminded just how loving and gracious God is that he uses these less than perfect individuals to rule over his kingdom, and he grants wealth and wisdom to them.  We should also note that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as we heard in our Psalm for the day.  Solomon, and David before him did indeed fear the Lord; this was the beginning of their wisdom.  The teaching by word and example that David gave Solomon led him to be wise enough to ask for wisdom and a discerning heart rather than wealth and prosperity.  Solomon learned from his father and then put that learning into action.

The wisdom that we gain from this is that faith and knowledge are to be handed down from generation to generation.  King David taught his son Solomon, and that went right down through the lineage, until we reach Jesus, who was born of David’s house.  But Jesus handed that wisdom and learning on down the line until it reached all of us.  We have been and continue to be taught by the next generation what they were taught by their predecessors.

Where things seem to have fallen down a bit though is in the last three or four generations we have been relying more and more on others to do the teaching for us.  I’ve noticed that the newer versions of Luther’s Small Catechism don’t appear to have the wise instruction in them that Luther put there deliberately and specifically, for example, “The Creed: As the head of the Family should teach it in the simplest way to his household.” It is the right and responsibility of the head of the household to pass on the faith to those who are a part of that household.  A big thrust of the Faith Inkubators programme is to encourage parents to take an active role in the faith development of the ones the Lord has given them and entrusted to them.

How does the faith take hold, how are the seeds sewn if they are not taught in a simple way in the household.  We learn our habits and manners from our parents; we also learn our faith from them.  If not them we rely on other wise ones who are in the process of finishing their lives well to pick up the baton and assist the parents, but we shouldn’t be allowing them to abdicate their role.  We need to support and encourage each other in the process and pray, like Solomon did for wisdom, a discerning heart to know the difference between right and wrong.

We need to be careful to live, not as unwise but as wise and of course to always give thanks to God for everything.

I take a challenge from Solomon and the way he learned from his Father, that challenge is that we all need to step up to the plate and take responsibility to teach the faith in our homes, to encourage others to do the same and help them if they aren’t sure how to. We need to pass on wisdom and faith to our households, so that they can do the same for theirs.  Rather than ask God for wealth and prosperity or taking away the adversity that keeps hitting us in our lives, let’s ask for wisdom and grace to walk in obedience to God and follow his decrees, and give thanks to God in all circumstances.