Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What would you wish for if you could wish for anything in the world? One wise soul answered, “When Life Happens, Chocolate Helps.” An even wiser soul added, “Chocolate is the answer, no matter what the question.” In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, we were introduced to confectionary wisdom, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Humorist Dave Berry offered a bit more perspective on that wisdom, “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I’ve finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”
The young King Solomon could have asked for many things. Surprisingly, even chocolate. After all it already existed as a drink in Central America nearly 2000 years before it was introduced by the Spanish to Europe. Yes, Solomon could have asked for chocolate for power, prestige and riches, but in our lesson, Solomon asked God for wisdom.
Today’s scripture glosses over Solomon’s need for wisdom. Instead we read simply that, “David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David. And that Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his kingdom was firmly established.” By these words, we might assume that King David died peacefully and that all was in harmony across his realm. We might even believe that it was a peaceful and orderly transition of power from father to son and that Solomon was always the heir apparent to the throne. The king is dead. Long live the king. Nothing could be farther than the truth. The transition of power was anything but peaceful and predictable.
After the death of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom, the fourth son of David, Adonijah considered himself to be the new heir. Adonijah acquired chariots and a large army and he began to prepare for his coronation. King David was unaware of this since he was in failing health. Adonijah consulted and obtained the support of both the commander of the army Joab and the influential priest Abiathar. However, the priest Zadok and the court prophet Nathan did not side with Adonijah.
In anticipation of King David’s imminent death, Adonijah chose to invite his fellow princes and the court officials to a solemn sacrifice in order to announce his claim to the throne. Surprisingly, he did not invite King David or Solomon. Assuming that Adonijah would soon conspire with his secret police and body guards to eliminate any rivals to the throne, Nathan warned Bathsheba and counseled her to remind David of the promise he made to Solomon that he alone would be his successor. Together they encouraged David from his deathbed to give the orders that Solomon be anointed king immediately, to which David agreed.
There was such a loud cry and blast of the ram’s horn in the city when Solomon was anointed, that everyone at the feast for Adonijah wondered what had happened. When they heard from a royal messenger that Solomon had been crowned king, Adonijah’s supporters fled the city, while Adonijah himself took refuge at the ark of the covenant pleading that he be spared from judgment. Solomon granted him pardon on the condition that he showed himself a worthy man.
The next days were anything but peaceful. King David stepped back into the story and encouraged Solomon to issue a death sentence threat against on Joab, his once faithful commander, One such request from a death bed would have been enough, but David then did it again, and demanded that Solomon destroy his last enemy, Shemei, son of Gera. David confessed, “I swore to him by the Lord, ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But you, Solomon, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise boy; you will know what you ought to do to him. You must bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol!” Thus Solomon became the king of Israel on nothing less than a river of blood.
So, only months into his reign as king, Solomon had a dream in which God appeared to him. The dream must have triggered by an awareness of the struggles he would have face in following in his father’s footsteps. In the dream God asked Solomon what he wanted to be given, Solomon started by reflecting on his understanding of the basis of his father’s successes: Solomon said to God, “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 towards you.” The source of his father’s success was evident to Solomon. He even acknowledged that his selection to be his father’s successor was not based on his own accomplishments, but rather on the God’s steadfast love for his father.
Solomon was very much aware of his own inadequacies, principally wisdom, and so he said to God, “I do not know how to go out or come in. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern the people, and the ability to discern between good and evil. the ability to listen well, and to judge rightly. For who can govern this your great people?”
And Solomon’s request pleased the Lord. He was commended for it by God – and granted it. Indeed, wisdom was a needed gift for any man who would succeed King David.
So what is the lesson that we are to learn from the story of Solomon’s request for wisdom? Certainly, we are reminded that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom can be nurtured and tempered by following God’s commandment and statutes. But the story also reminds that wisdom is more than book knowledge. Wisdom is not an innate virtue; it must be experienced and learned.
So where do we begin. Let me offer five suggestions for ways like Solomon you too may grow in wisdom.
First of all, try new things. It’s hard to gain wisdom when you stay in and do the same thing day after day. You get wiser when you put yourself out there and give yourself the opportunity to learn, make mistakes and reflect on the experience. This might mean going to places you’ve never been, trying foods you’ve never tasted and listening to music you’ve never heard.
Second, talk to people you don’t know. Engage with people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives than yours, even with those who disagree with you politically, and pay attention to what you can learn from them. Try not to judge them for the more you’re able to empathize with them, the wiser you will be.
Third, try to do things the hard way. While driving, turn off your “google maps.” Use you an old- fashioned paper map and your intuition to figure out where you are. When you’re trying to research something, make it harder for yourself so your mind will be forced to think creatively.
Fourth, make mistakes. Experience makes us wiser. Our mistakes make us better people in a lot of different ways. So don’t be afraid to take risks and commit errors. When you make mistakes, you learn faster and more permanently.
Fifth, share your wisdom with others. That’s not to say you should tell people what to do; rather, lead by example. Show others your wisdom by being open, nonjudgmental and thoughtful in all situations. Find ways to play that role of a mentor to other people who might benefit from what you’ve learned.
My friends, what would you wish for if you could wish for anything? In my household, it might still be chocolate. After all, chocolate is always the answer, no matter what the question. Solomon, for all his shortcomings, answered well when asked in his dream what he wanted. He wished not for personal gain nor material possessions, but for a listening heart, a discerning mind, and the wisdom to govern his people well. For all these attributes, Solomon would become known as the epitome of wisdom and a well-loved king. I pray that the same could be said of you and me. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.