King Solomon's True Treasure (I Kings 3:3-15)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: 1 Kings 3:3–15
I. How Much Gold?
Along with his father David, Solomon may the best-known king of ancient Israel. Listen to what the Old Testament tells us about the greatness of his kingdom:
...King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. (I Kings 10:23)
Just one example of these incomparable riches was the amount of gold that Solomon possessed. Just how much gold did Solomon possess? Well, keep in mind that the Hebrews measured precious metals like gold and silver in a measure called a “talent”(Heb. kikkar), which equaled about 75 pounds.
So when we add up numbers from I Kings 9:14, 28, as well as chapter 10, verses 10, 14, 15, we arrive at this total: 1,326 talents of gold. That's just shy of 100,000 pounds or 50 tons of gold. Wow! What would you do with 50 tons of gold? Keep I mind that today just one ton of gold is worth $46.5 million. But this morning, God wants to give us something from Solomon that is far more valuable. Let's consider King Solomon's true treasure by looking together at I Kings 3.
II. The Passage: “Because You Have Asked This” (3:3-15)
Before there is any mention of gold or worldly goods or fame, this is what we discover about Solomon, just after the accounts of chapters 1 and 2, in which we read about the establishment of his kingdom after receiving rule from his father David. We read in 3:3...
Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.  At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”  And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”  It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,  behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”  And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.
While it's not likely that God will appear to any of us in the same way he appeared to Solomon, each and every one of us has the opportunity to “ask” something of God; the opportunity to bring our requests to God daily in prayer. God invites us to ask, just as he invited Solomon to ask.
Jesus declared, “Ask, and it will be given to you...” (Matthew 7:7) He also taught, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) And again, “...whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23)
So what do we learn about asking from this passage. Well let me direct your attention back to verse 10. Look again at that striking statement: “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.” If you love God, love him above all, love him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, then you should want that to be said about every prayer request you bring to him. “It pleased the Lord that [she] had asked this.” “It pleased the Lord that [he] had asked this.” You see, the true treasure that Solomon can give us this morning is the example he provides in terms of asking God; or we might say, his example in regard to prayer (especially prayer requests).
I want you to notice three striking features of Solomon's request here. First, it is a grace-inspired request. Second, it is a humility-rich request. Finally, it is an others-focused request. Let's take those one at a time and look back at what the passage reveals. First, Solomon's request was...
1. A Grace-Inspired Request (v. 6)
When the Maker of all things, the King of the universe comes to you and says, “Ask what I shall give you,” it wouldn't be surprising if someone began to run through a list of deep needs and deep desires. We might say to ourselves, “This is what God can do in this or that situation!” But Solomon does not begin with what God can do. He begins with what God has done. He opens his mouth in verse 6 and we find that Solomon is remembering grace, not requesting gifts. Is this merely a formula, like “open with a joke, close with a story”? No. This is an expression of Solomon's heart. It's an expression of what read in verse 3: “Solomon loved the LORD...”.
And if you look back at verse 6, Solomon isn't talking about grace in a generic, abstract way, is he? This is personal. This is Solomon's story. This is gratefulness for grace. It's important to remember the name of Solomon's mother. Her name was... Bathsheba. Many of you recognize that name. Her story is found in II Samuel, chapterss 11 & 12. It's a story of not only adultery and abuse of power, but also of murder. So when we keep that in mind, verse 6 is striking, isn't it? Remember, Solomon was just one of David's sons. But graciously, God raised him up to be the next king.
Can you sense the gratitude behind these words? Paul encourages this same emphasis on thanksgiving in Phil. 4:6, where he writes do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Is your prayer life characterized by gratitude? Is it inspired by grace? Before requesting, are you rehearsing... rehearsing just how good God has been to you? God wants you to bring your requests, your petitions, before him. But when our pleas are not brought in gratitude in light of grace, it has a way of skewing our prayers. Gratitude is not only the right thing to do in light of God's generous grace, it's also a faith-building exercise, since it reminds us of the ways God has already worked. But when we move on in the passage, we discover this request is also...
2. A Humility-Rich Request (vs. 7, 8)
We find in verses 7 and 8 that Solomon is acknowledging his inexperience, and subsequently, his neediness, in light of the awesome responsibility of kingship. And kingship over (v. 8) “a great people, too many to be numbered or counted”. What is Solomon's confession in verse 7? “...I am but a little child.”
The new king's attitude is not one of pride because his new position. He is humbled and reaching out for help. What an important reminder for us. Now some may think, “If we're coming to God with our requests, isn't that proof of our humility, our neediness?” It might be. But James 4:3 reminds us that isn't always the case: When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (NIV) All of us can ask with wrong motives. Every single one of us has and can pray from pride.
But God's reminder to us here, in this request that was pleasing to the Lord, is to come with the same confession Solomon made: “...I am but a little child.” So maybe that sounds something like this, “Father, I bring this request to you, but do so recognizing that ultimately, I do not know what is best. Teach me how to pray. Let your will be done, according to your wisdom, not my own.” But listen again to verse 9, as we see how this grateful, humble heart gives voice to...
3. An Others-Focused Request (v. 9)
Popular thinking about Solomon's prayer has often characterized this as a prayer for wisdom. And that wisdom is then set in the context of Solomon's greatness, his renown, his glory. “The wisdom of Solomon”. And undoubtedly, God's word does emphasize these things. But please notice that Solomon's request is not for wisdom for wisdom's sake. Verse 9...
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
Solomon is not concerned about his own glory. He's concerned about the people's good; about their well-being. This was the request that “pleased the Lord”. Notice how God explains his pleasure in this request. Verse 11: And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies...” This request was pleasing to God because this perspective was so pleasing to God. To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Do our prayers reflect this? Are they predominantly others-focused? If you were given one request from God, for what would you pray?
Brothers and sisters, this is what grace-inspired and humility-rich prayer requests sound like. Is it wrong to pray for yourself; to ask God for help in light of your own needs? Absolutely not. But love for God and love for our neighbor should dominate not just our hearts, but our requests.
And please don't miss that Solomon is not simply asking for understanding to be a good king; he's asking to be God's king for God's people. When we come to God with gratitude, rehearsing his faithfulness and his work among us, and when we come with humility, as little children who recognize their ignorance, inexperience, and inability, we will come with requests shaped by God's priorities and not our own. Brother, sister, you may be praying even now for someone else's need. But are you praying for God's work in God's way in their life? Or are your prayers 'locked in' to what you think would be best?
Please understand that this pattern of prayer in not a prescription for basically perfect people. Solomon wasn't perfect. His imperfections are actually alluded to in verse 3, where it says that he “he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.” In Deuteronomy 12, God had ordered these high places to be destroyed. But notice how Solomon's interaction with God leads to growth. We see that in the final verse of our passage, verse 15. After his dream, where did Solomon go to worship God through sacrifice? To the Tent of Meeting. To the Ark of the Covenant; the very place God had prescribed for his people.
Solomon wasn't perfect. But he did love God. Do you? Please don't let regrets or shame or struggles keep you from coming to God in this same way. Come. Ask. God not only wants to answer your prayers, he wants to grow you in the process.
III. Something Greater Than Solomon
When God gave Solomon a 'blank check', as it were, how did the new king respond? His response was grace-inspired, humility-rich, and others-focused. What an example God has provided for us here, since we to have been invited to bring our requests to God. This is Solomon's true treasure! Now, I also want to emphasize what we heard in verses 12-14: God not only fulfilled Solomon's request, he caused his 'cup to overflow'. Not only would he give the king a “wise and discerning mind”, but the wisest and most discerning mind, of anyone! And on top of that, wealth. And on top of that, a long life.
You see, though we are tempted to believe it, you don't have to focus on yourself to ensure that your needs are met. God wants us to trust that when we focus on his glory and the good of others, he will take care of us; he will bless us... richly. Do you believe that? Hasn't God already done that for us through Solomon; that is, through Solomon's descendant? Given the exalted language in I Kings about Solomon, it's stunning when we read in Matthew 12:42, “ ...behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” And though Solomon went on to build God's glorious temple, we also read in Matthew 12 that “something greater than the temple is here” (v. 6).
Those are the words of Jesus, the son of David; the descendant of Solomon. And He was talking about himself! If we were to finish the story of Solomon, we would discover a tragic ending; an ending that simply confirms the tragic truth about all of us: in the deepest part of our heart, we are grace-forgetting, pride-filled, self-focused sinners. We are spiritually rebellious, spiritually lost people who desperately need “something greater than Solomon”. Wonderfully, God has provided that for us in King Jesus.
Solomon wasn't perfect, but Jesus was and is. A king who died for us. A king who rose for us. Our ultimate prescription for prayer is prayer through Jesus, in his name. Amen? Let's learn and grow in prayer. But let's do so grateful for God's grace in Christ, and our Savior's example of others-focused, sacrificial love. “Something greater than Solomon is here.” Amen!