1 Kings 3:4-15
If you are familiar at all with Solomon you probably know that Solomon is famous for being wise. He is also famous for this scene in which he asked for wisdom. In studying this passage this week I had a little “aha” moment. It is easy to take your previous understanding of Solomon, read v. 9 through those lenses, and read it to say, “Solomon asked God for wisdom.” Look again. Solomon does not ask God for wisdom. He asks God for a “discerning heart.” That is how the NIV translates it anyway. So what is a discerning heart? Our first response may be, “A discerning heart is simply wisdom, so what’s the big deal?”
In this case we can learn a great deal by going back to the original language. In the Hebrew, Solomon asks that God would give him a shama heart. The word shama means “listening.” You may have heard this word used in referring to the famous passage (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) that is called the Shema by the Jews; “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One…” The tense of the word Shema in this passage is “hear this!” or, “Hey, Israel, Listen Up!” In these words, Moses was telling Israel that the key to living in God’s Kingdom was to listen.
Solomon asked for a listening heart, not for wisdom. I love that distinction. When we think of wisdom we think of it as a quality that we can possess. We think, “I can be wise, and I can make wise decisions.” Do you see the subtle danger in thinking of wisdom in that way? If I possess wisdom and I can make wise decisions, then where is God in that?
In this passage Solomon was overwhelmed by the realization that he had inherited a great responsibility from his father. He knew that he would not be able to rule the nation in his own strength. So, he asked God for the ability to listen well. There is the key to the Kingdom of God, right there; Listening.
Too many times we look at the world around us and all the responsibilities and decisions that we have to make on a daily basis, and we roll up our sleeves and jump in with our own strength. Even in ministry we do this. We look at issues in our churches and we try to hammer things out using our own strength and wisdom. The answer does not dwell within us. This is God’s Kingdom and His church. He knows exactly what to do for us in every situation, and He is ready to tell us. The question is, are we ready to listen.
Listening is scary business. Listening requires silence. God does not speak in brash trumpets and lightning in the sky. God is like a gentle, constant whisper that is always speaking, but can only be heard when there are no competing sounds. Our job is not to beg God to speak. Our job is to slow down and become quiet enough to hear Him.
What noises are drowning His gentle voice out of your life today? Is it the noise of bitterness and resentment that you hold toward someone? Are there unresolved issues in your family or church community that are a jamming signal for God’s voice? Is there a cherished sin that has a grip on your heart and is covering the ears of your soul? Are there too many “good things” on your plate that keep you running around so fast and furious that you can’t afford to slow down?
Let’s commit to join Solomon in his prayer. Let’s admit that we aren’t smart enough to do this thing called living in the Kingdom of God on our own. Let’s join together in slowing down enough and getting quiet enough and patient enough to listen to God’s still, small voice. Then let’s have enough courage to obey that voice when we hear it.