Is Wisdom the Principle Thing?

(2 Chronicles 1:7-10) On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?” {8} And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. {9} Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. {10} Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

This vignette gives each of us pause to ask this question: if God appeared to me and gave me a blank check in prayer, what would I ask for? Would I ask for myself, or for the greater glory of God?

Solomon answered well. The account in 1 Kings 3 tells us that he was deeply aware of his need; in his words, he was but a child, without even the knowledge to go out or come in. Yet, he was put in charge of God’s own special people, the children of Israel. A daunting task for such a young and inexperienced king.

I love Solomon’s response. I relate to it. Pastoral ministry is like that for me. I know I’m in way over my head. And, by the way, these are God’s people—Jesus’ own sheep—that I am called to shepherd. They must be treated exactly as Jesus would treat them, because after all, He is the Chief Shepherd. Therefore, many times over the years I have prayed for wisdom and Divine enablement. I want to do this job well. Only God knows my heart for sure, but I think that I want this for His glory.

I taught from this same passage last Wednesday night. Up until that morning, I’d never even thought to criticize Solomon’s prayer, or to think it somehow deficient. That is, until I found these words in David Guzik’s commentary by the great commentator Alexander McLaren:

“Was this the highest gift that he could have asked or received? Surely the deep longings of his father for communion with God were yet better.”

Wow. McLaren’s comment slapped me in the face, and shook me to the core. Could it be that Solomon asked for the wrong thing? Could it be that Solomon would have been far better off to have prayed as his father David would most likely have prayed? David was a man after God’s own heart. His soul searched for God, yearned for God, sought hard after God (Psalm 42:1-3; 63:1-2). He wanted wisdom, yes … but even more than wisdom, David wanted the Lord Himself. Perhaps if Solomon had had the same heart for God that his father had, he would not have fallen into the pattern of sin and eventual idolatry that signaled his backsliding.

My Biblical memory was immediately challenged. Isn’t it true that wisdom is the principle thing, as stated in Proverbs 4:7? Isn’t it also true that if we cry out for wisdom and search for her as for hidden treasures, that we will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God? With that line of thinking, wisdom is the most important thing.

On the other hand, we also know that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38). The great confession of the Jews (the “Shema”) includes a similar command:

“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one!  {5} You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Putting the Biblical references together, it appears that love and devotion for God is primary. Wisdom, when sought after, becomes a pathway to that greater goal. Therefore, the greater prayer is to seek after God, and search for the Lord Himself.

All of this speaks to me. My prayers have largely been focused on wisdom, that my life and ministry might be lived wisely. But have I been missing something? Has my desire to be effective eclipsed my love and pursuit of God? Have I been like the church of Ephesus—doctrinally and practically solid, but lacking devotion and the first love experience?

I don’t know the answers to my own questions, at least not fully. I refuse to engage in unhealthy introspection, following the example of Paul the apostle in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. But I know I must be open to a new and fresh work of the Spirit of God in my heart.

Communion with God is the better part, according to Jesus’ comment to Martha with regard to her sister Mary (Luke 10:39-42). I will look to the Lord for the grace to pursue that which is best. At least that’s my plan. I hope the same for you.

Thanks for reading.

2 replies
  1. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Good stuff to think on, Bill. I was gonna joke around (so unlike me!) that yeah, you’d been blowing it, blah, blah, but like you, I’ve had the same sense of being over my head and incapable, as well as unworthy of the calling and the work. Early on pastoring the Lord dealt with me on just this issue, that of Martha and Mary. I still find it being the thing so easily pushed aside, yet the one true thing I know I need daily.
    Thanks for the reminder bro! And like you, I’m looking forward to a fresh work and outpouring of the Holy Spirit… if no one else needs it, I do.

  2. Doug Eagle
    Doug Eagle says:

    Thank you so much for this article. This is such a challenging article. At times we get so focused on the “needing wisdom part” so we can traverse our daily lives in an attempt to honor and glorify Him, that we forget (at least I do) to actually sit at His feet and worship Him first and foremost! Thanks for the encouragement.

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