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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 3

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 5

1 Kings 3:5

Solomon's prayer was acceptable to God (1) because every true and faithful prayer is so acceptable, and (2) because of all prayers He loveth best those that are wholly unselfish, those in which all thoughts of self are absorbed and annihilated in thoughts of Him and of our fellow-men.

I. Even of things earthly God says to each of us, "Ask what I shall give thee." Our lives may be very much what we choose to make them. Asking God for gifts at the hands of time or opportunity does not mean mere asking; he who asks must, if his prayer is to be listened to, be sincere in his petition, and if he be sincere, will naturally and necessarily take the means which God appoints. Were it not so if vice could with a wish yawn into being the rewards of virtue, if sluggishness could at a touch appropriate to itself the gifts of toil then prayer would corrupt the world. Action, effort, perseverance these are the touchstones that test the pure gold of sincerity.

II. Though this be true of earthly things, it is ten times more indisputably true of the better and the heavenly. Dost thou love uprightness? Ask it, will it, and thou shalt be upright. Dost thou love purity? Ask it, will it, and thou shalt be pure. " Ask what I shall give thee. " God said it to Solomon in the dim visions of the night; He says it to us by the voice of His eternal Son. "Every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

F. W. Farrar, In the Days of thy Youth, p. 159.

I. Not wealth, not pleasure, not fame, not victory, not length of days, but an understanding heart, was the choice of Solomon's boyhood.

The prayer for wisdom is always pleasing to God. (1) Even intellectual wisdom how far higher is it, how far worthier of man as God made him, than any alternative of fashion or vanity of wit or vice. Fear not to ask of God an understanding heart, even in studies which name not His name. (2) But the speech which pleased the Lord was a prayer rather for practical wisdom. The gift which Solomon's prayer drew down was the gift of justice. When he seated himself in the gate to hear the causes which Israel brought to him, intellect was nothing; judgment, the power to discriminate between good and bad this was his work. This therefore was his prayer.

II. The bitter and painful thing to remember in the history before us is the wreck and ruin of that prayer which in itself was so beautiful and so acceptable. (1) It may have been that Solomon's largeness of heart slipped into latitudinarianism. (2) That which cankered Solomon's wisdom was the entrance of sinful lust.

III. We may hope that even out of this wreck the lost life found a way to arise. We read the Book of Ecclesiastes as the record of that hope. Let us hope that the night's prayer at Gibeon was being answered, though in dim and broken reflection, in the latest utterances of the Preacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem.

C. J. Vaughan, Sermon Preached at St. Olave's School, 1872.

References: 1 Kings 3:5 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 19; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 5th series, p. 37; Bishop Thorold, Good Words, 1878, p. 20. 1 Kings 3:7 . Outline Sermons for Children, p. 45

Verses 6-9

1 Kings 3:6-9

I. In what sense, it may be asked, did David expect that his son's kingdom would be a Divine and spiritual one, in what sense an earthly and magnificent one? I answer, He looked for no earthly magnificence which was not the manifestation of an inward and spiritual dominion; he feared no earthly magnificence which was a manifestation of it. Solomon's own history will be the best solution of the riddle, if it is one.

II. Solomon beseeches God for an understanding heart. All his moral and spiritual desires are gathered up in that petition. He asks precisely what he feels to be necessary to his work; he wants nothing more. Consider what he felt that this work demanded. "He must discern between good and bad." This he perceives to be the characteristic function of a ruler. He must know right from wrong, must learn in complicated cases to see into the truth, to see it in spite of any falsehoods that might be invented to blacken it. To discern God first, that he might judge of evil by that; to have intense inward sympathy with the right, that he might hate and resolutely put down the wrong this was the gift which, in his conscious ignorance, he desired Him who possessed it to bestow.

III. Such a time as Solomon's, though a really great one, is a critical one for any nation. The idea of building a house which the Lord would fill with His glory was a recognition of God as eternally ruling over that people and over all people. Yet there lay close to it a tendency to make the invisible visible, to represent the holy presence as belonging to the building instead of the building as being hallowed and glorified by the presence. There was the seed of idolatry in Solomon, as there is in every man. That early prayer for an understanding heart was the prayer against it, and it was answered as fully as any prayer ever was. But there comes a moment when the king or the man ceases to desire that the light should enter into hint, should separate the good from the bad in him. Then the tempter appears and points the road to idolatry. And the sympathising king who sent his people away with gladness of heart, sure that God was the King and that they had a human king who felt towards them as He felt, would gradually become a tyrant. So even the wise king would prepare his subjects for rebellion and his kingdom for division.

F. D. Maurice, Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament, p. 74.

Reference: 1 Kings 3:7 , 1 Kings 3:9 . Old Testament Outlines, pp. 66, 67.

Verses 9-12

1 Kings 3:9-12

I. God comes to every one of us saying, "Ask what I shall give thee." Goethe said he admired the man who knew precisely what he aimed at in life. God wishes you at the commencement of your career to come up to the height of a great choice. You must choose, your refusal to choose is itself a choice, and it is the liberty to choose your own aim in life, and at last your own destiny, that makes life so serious, Life comes to every man with its riddle; and if he answers it aright, it is well with him; but if he tries to go on neglecting the commandments of the Giver of life, if he tries to go on living in his own way, and not in God's way, life to him will be a thing of loss, and he will become an object to be wept over. We are placed here, naked as the giant of fable, to wrestle with the rude elements of the world, to conquer in the midst of its varied probation; but remember this: no devil nor devil's child can cast you down without your own consent.

II. Notice that "the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing." It was this thing in contrast to three other things that he rejected: long life, riches, and revenge on his enemies.

III. The reasons are here assigned why it pleased the Lord that Solomon rejected the false and chose the true aim in life. (1) Because he chose what enabled him to be serviceable to others. Our great poet has told us that Heaven does with us as we do with torches: not light them for themselves. We are lit in order to be the light of the world. (2) It pleased the Lord because he chose to walk in the statutes of a good father, and so to encourage him in his last days in his faith in God's covenant. (3) It pleased the Lord because he chose God Himself as his portion rather than all His gifts.

Herber Evans, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 329.

References: 1 Kings 3:10 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 335; E. J. Hardy, Faint yet Pursuing, p. 69.

Verse 12

1 Kings 3:12

As He is wont, God gave Solomon more than he asked. There is a difference between the favour that was sought and the boon which was granted. "The heart" is the affections; "the understanding" is the intelligent knowledge of any subject; "wisdom" is the sensible and right use both of the knowledge and the affections.

I. Wisdom is the only thing of which God has said that He gives it liberally and never upbraids. No man need be afraid to ask for wisdom, however often or however much. Solomon's wisdom went higher than all natural history, higher than political economy, higher than moral science. It went up to essential truth, to the Truth of truths, to Christ Himself. Read the eighth chapter of Proverbs, and you will see, beyond a cavil, what and who was "the Wisdom" that God gave to Solomon. All this was the result of one good choice, and the answer to one simple, humble prayer in early life.

II. There is a very solemn lesson in the fact that Solomon afterwards abused that vast gift, that that very heart went wrong. No one prayer can secure continuance; one period of life is no guarantee for another period of life; the intellect may be darkened, and the heart may go wrong, and the wisest man become the worst.

III. The triple band of wisdom, intellect, and love is a "threefold cord, which shall not be quickly broken." Affections are the springs of life, without which the man lies dormant and useless. Affections are the seat of faith, and the heaven of this present life. And intellect is strength. Intellect takes in all truth, and is the characteristic of man. But wisdom takes us higher. Wisdom teaches us that the affections and the intellect have a far end beyond; that we must live up to our immortality; that we must be like God. Wisdom blends and sanctifies the heart and the understanding, gives unity, completes our being, moulds nature into grace, and turns the man into a saint.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 101.

References: 1 Kings 3:24-27 . A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 172. 1 Kings 4:20-28 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1504.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/1-kings-3.html.
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