Wednesday, January 05, 2022

2022.01.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 3:1–15

Read 1 Kings 3:1–15

Questions from the Scripture text: With whom did Solomon make a treaty in 1 Kings 3:1? Whom did he marry? Where did he bring her until when? What were the people doing (1 Kings 3:2a)? Why (verse 2b)? What did Solomon do (1 Kings 3:3a)? Except for what (verse 3b)? Where did Solomon go to do what (1 Kings 3:4)? How many? What happens that night (1 Kings 3:5)? What is Solomon supposed to do? But what does he do first in 1 Kings 3:6? And second in 1 Kings 3:7-8? What does he finally do in 1 Kings 3:9? For what does he ask? Why? How does Yahweh respond (1 Kings 3:10)? What will God give him (1 Kings 3:12)? And what else (1 Kings 3:13)? Why (1 Kings 3:11)? And what else, upon what conditions (1 Kings 3:14)? What change in 1 Kings 3:15 (cf. 1 Kings 3:4) is the first indication of an understanding heart?

In my particular translation, the publisher has chosen to head this section “Solomon requests wisdom.” Indeed he does, by God’s grace. But the red flags are flying all over this chapter. After the establishing of the kingdom in chapter 2, the opening of chapter 3 has the makings of its unraveling. A treaty with Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1a). A political marriage (verse 1b) that is going to be spiritually compromising and set a precedent for a thousand such “marriages.” Permitting the people to worship at the high places (1 Kings 3:2a), using an excuse (verse 2b) that Solomon himself knows doesn’t hold water (cf. 1 Kings 3:15b). And then Solomon himself worshiping at those high places (1 Kings 3:3-4).

Against this backdrop, we can’t come away from this chapter thinking that it’s a story of how good Solomon is to make this choice. Rather, we must come away amazed at the grace of God that would permit and enable him to make a good choice. So, let’s observe several aspects of this great grace of God to Solomon (and to us).

God’s patience with the exceedingly great evil of manmade worship. Lest we think it is a small thing to worship God in a non-commanded way, note the relationship of the first half of 1 Kings 3:3 to the second half of verse 3. “Solomon loved Yahweh… except…” Here is a man whose life could be accurately summarized (God Himself does it!) as “loving Yahweh,” but he goes to worship God with great sincerity and zeal (a thousand burnt offerings in 1 Kings 3:4!), and that’s the one place in his life that he is NOT loving the Lord. This says the same thing as Exodus 20:5. Worshiping God using our own innovations is to hate Him. 

However much we love the Lord in the rest of our lives, however sincerely and intensely we mean our worship, if we are doing it according to the inventions of man instead of the prescription of God, we are hating Him.

But while Solomon’s idolatry is a feature of the text, it is the background to that glorious grace of God that He displays in the foreground. Why was Solomon in Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4)? Because “that was the great high place” (cue wincing and cringing and gasps of horror). But it is “at Gibeon” (1 Kings 3:5) that Yahweh appears to Solomon to invite him to ask for whatever he wants. 

As I write this, we have just come through what many sincere believers call “advent season.” It’s an invention of man, and many are devoted to it with the intensity of Solomon’s thousand sacrifices. And as the Lord’s appearance to Solomon at Gibeon, the Lord has graciously communicated Himself to many, even in the midst of something that Scripture teaches us to understand is a hating of Him. His doing so is no indication that somehow this manmade religion is acceptable. Rather, it’s a display of just how marvelous His grace is (see especially the last section below!)

God’s grace to enable us to respond to God’s grace. And God adds to that grace the grace by which Solomon answers well. I suspect that most of us who are familiar with this story think of Solomon “answering well” as Solomon asking for wisdom. But the excellence of his answer has much more to it than the request that he ends up making.

First, he starts with praise and thanksgiving. “You have shown great ḥesed (covenant love)… You continued this great ḥesed for him and You have given him a son to sit on his throne” (1 Kings 3:6). Then, he continues with humility and neediness. “I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7). He pleads the Lord’s own interests: “Your people whom You have chosen” (1 Kings 3:8). He lays his predicament before the Lord: this people is so great by comparison to Solomon’s abilities that he cannot even number or count them (verse 8). 

Finally, Solomon asks for a “hearing heart” (1 Kings 3:9a) to judge the people well as their king. How does someone whose act of worship is one that offends God come to pray in a way that pleases (1 Kings 3:10) the Lord? There’s only one explanation for that. Grace.

God’s generosity to reward good works. The Lord gives Solomon a wise and understanding heart beyond that of any mere man (1 Kings 3:12). But He responds to Solomon’s grace-given humility and grace-given request with a generous reward: riches and honor above all the other kings of his day (1 Kings 3:13). We can do nothing good apart from grace, and yet the God who gives the grace for that good, both forgives our guilt for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice and rewards the good for the sake of Christ’s righteousness. The chapter begins with red flags, features Solomon’s idolatry, surprises us with a grace-produced request at Gibeon, and then features God’s reward for that request. It presents to us our God who rewards, by generous grace, the good works of believers which are done only by His grace.

God’s grace to grant repentance. God promised Solomon wisdom to judge the people, and also great riches and honor. But before the passage closes, He gives him something better than all of those: repentance. The king wakes up in Gibeon, realizes his error, and does not respond to this appearance of God by offering more sacrifices at “the great high place” in Gibeon. Instead, he packs up and comes to Jerusalem and “stood before the ark of the covenant of Yahweh.” It is there that he now offers up burnt offerings and peace offerings. Whenever the Lord’s people realize a spiritual blind spot and turn away from their great sin, it is a great gift of God.

That’s the risk of adding subtitles to translations. You might end up calling a passage “Solomon requests wisdom,” when, upon a closer look, a better title might have been, “God displays the greatness of His grace.”

With what former ignorant sin of yours has the Lord been patient? How does this free you to (possibly) let go of other practices that are offensive to Him? How does His generosity to reward good works help you seek both the reward and the praise of His generosity?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how great is Your love and Christ’s sacrifice, that for His sake You would bear patiently with us! For truly, we have done many things, sincerely thinking that we were honoring You, only to discover later that those very things were hateful to You. So we ask not only that You would forgive us, but that You would grant unto us the further grace of identifying such sin and turning from it. How we thank You for giving us Christ, and together with Him all good things. Make us to walk in those works that please You, and which You are pleased to reward, for Christ’s sake—in Whose Name we also ask it all, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH176 “O Thou That Hear’st When Sinners Cry”


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