Wisdom Changes Everything

This week kicks off HPUMC’s newest bible reading plan. With that, our Midweek Bible Study will be following along and meeting to work through the content. We hope you will join us in reading and for our discussion based off of this Wisdom Literature. Here is the link to get the reading plan. Just download the full booklet in the upper right hand corner. Here is the link to tune into Midweek with Sean and Alyssa on Mondays at 4:00 CST. Here is what Sean has for us today.

1 Kings 3:5-28

If God offered, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you,” how would you respond?  What would be the one thing that you would ask God for? Maybe you would ask for wealth, happiness, or fame.  Our new reading plan starts with God asking this very question. God told King Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted.  Solomon’s response was that he wanted wisdom which God granted him. This leads Solomon down a deep and complex road. Over the next few weeks we will see how this all plays out.

Background on Solomon

Who was King Solomon? Firstly, he was believed to have been born around the time of 1010 BC.  He was the 10th son of King David and the second of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). For most, Solomon is best known for his construction of the first Jewish Temple.  However, during Solomon’s reign he accomplished much more such as improvements in defense measures, the expansion of the royal court, and modernized taxation methods.  It is believed that Solomon was only twenty years old when he took the throne. This is why we see Solomon asking for wisdom from God (vs 7-9).

Wisdom: Good or Bad?

How would you define wisdom?  What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?  An understanding of what wisdom is, is essential because it helps us to understand exactly what Solomon asked for and what God gave him.  Verses 5-15 are nothing but a recounting of a conversation that Solomon had with God in a dream. It is here that we see Solomon ask God for wisdom and not only does God grant him that, He gives him wealth and honor (13).  Let’s really look at what Solomon specifically asks for. Verse 9 says, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”  God’s response is joyful and pleased! Though scripture says that Solomon wanted to distinguish between right and wrong, it is fair to say that right and wrong can be synonymous or at least related to good and evil. So is there a contrast between what we see in this 1 Kings passage and what we see way back in Genesis 3?  In Genesis we see the fall initiated by Eve being tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God’s response was to throw Adam and Eve out of the garden. Now look back at our scripture for today. It would appear that Solomon is asking for essentially the same thing. But this time God is pleased with Solomon’s request and even gives him more than he asks for.  So what is the difference? I think our answer lies with the difference between knowledge, like form the tree, and wisdom, that Solomon asks for. A definition that I like is that knowledge is possessing a mental understanding of certain information. Wisdom is the practical ability to use your knowledge to make good decisions consistently throughout your life. The reason I like this definition is because it helps us compare the desires of Adam and Eve vs Solomon and God’s response in both stories.  When the serpent was talking to Eve, it told her that if she eats the apple that it would make her like God. She would know everything that God knew. However, when Solomon is asking for wisdom he is doing it so he can be a better leader for his people. Motivation is everything! Adam and Eve moved with selfish motives while Solomon was thinking of others. If we keep that definition in mind, the reason God told Adam and Eve not to eat the apple was because the knowledge of God is so great that it cannot be applied in creaturely life because it surpasses all creaturely limitations and we were not made for that.  However, wisdom is something that we can use in this life to help those around us. This is why God praises Solomon for his desire for wisdom while condemning Adam and Eve for their selfish ambitions. That is not to say that knowledge is inherently bad or evil but in these stories we are discussing divine knowledge while the divine wisdom that God gives Solomon went to the benefit of many as seen in verses 16-28.  

Conclusion

Many times we use knowledge and wisdom interchangeably.  However, if you picture someone who is wise and someone who is knowledgeable, they aren’t always the same person.  So what can we pull from this passage? It is not wrong to pursue knowledge. Knowledge is power as they say. But are we really seeking power or are we seeking something else?  God’s praise for Solomon is directly linked with his desire to help his people. I do not think that knowledge and wisdom are mutually exclusive however. When knowledge is used right it may turn into wisdom.  While motivation is everything so is application. How are you using the things that you are learning in school? How are you using the things that you are learning in Wesley? These are important questions and I believe that if we truly desire to apply our knowledge to the benefit of others thus turning it to wisdom, God will bless us as He did Solomon.   

We hope to see you today to discuss this!

-Sean

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