Start Off On the Right Foot With God This Year
1 Kings 3:1-15
We start a new year, and many people take this time to make new starts. Some may go on after-Christmas diets. Others may make new resolutions or plans. Here, we see Solomon making a similar new start. Solomon has been coronated as the new king. One might think that Solomon has made some missteps.
We see that he has married the daughter of the Pharaoh or king of Egypt. He has gone to the “high places” which were secular places of worship. It looks like he was making serious mistakes. He loves God, but he continues to follow in his own separate path away from what God wants Solomon wants him to do.
So God appears to Solomon in a dream. He tells Solomon to ask of Him.
If God approached you, as he did Solomon, and said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” how would you respond? Would you ask for money? A happy family? Good health? World peace? Solomon asked for “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” Without minimizing the selfless character of his request, we should remember that, as king, he had no need of more riches. However, he certainly could have asked for a more expansive kingdom, a better economy, or even revenge on his enemies. Instead, he asked for the disposition needed to serve his people well. Whether this actually happened or not, the account does pose an interesting question. How would you respond?
What is it that we ask of God? I doubt that I am the only one who, sometime in life, prayed to pass a test, or for good picnic weather, or to be chosen for what I might have considered an honor. As important as such prayers might have seemed at the moment, if I were to be honest with myself, I would have to admit that they were certainly quite trivial when you look at the whole scheme of things. But then, to what extent do we really know what counts in life? It takes great insight to realize what it is we should treasure in life and what is not worthy of us. This is particularly difficult when society assaults us with values that are really disvalues. Perhaps we should all pray for “an understanding heart.”1
When you ask God what you want, remember these three important elements in your prayer:
Reflect on the depth of God’s love with you in your past.
“And Solomon replied, “You have shown great and faithful love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. “Lord my God, you have now made your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. Your servant is among your people you have chosen, a people too many to be numbered or counted.” (1 Kings 3:6–8, CSB)
God’s love has it’s own trinity of qualities. His love embodies His faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. Solomon is reflecting on the way that David, his father, kept the covenant with God. Yet, David didn’t start this covenant. God did. God is the source of my faithfulness, my righteousness, and my integrity. My covenant with God starts with God. So look back at your own life. Look at the ways that you have been faithful, correct, and good with God. Ultimately, you will see that it was God and His love that made you that way. In other words, here are three ways to reflect on the way that God’s love has impacted you.
THREE WAYS TO REFLECT ON GOD’S LOVE
Remember how faithful He has been (“faithfulness”)
Look back on your relationship with God and see where He has been faithful with you. When you reflect on God and how faithful He has been, you will start to see many times where God came through for you. Maybe an unexpected bill was paid. Perhaps you were sick and He healed you. You look back and you wonder: “How was I able to get through all this?” The answer to that question is because God was faithful to you.
How faithful has God been with me?
Recognize how correct Has has been (“righteousness”)
There have been times in the past when you thought you were right. Yet, when you look back on your life, you find out that you were wrong and God was right. You just didn’t listen. Or you look back at a situation and like the song says: “thank God for unanswered prayers.” This is what it means to recognize how correct God has been.
When has God been right about what He told me?
Realize how good He has been (“integrity”)
God has been honest, upright, and upright with you. He has been true to Himself as He has been true to His relationship with you. There has never been a time when He was evil with you. Yes, God may have pushed you out of your comfort zone, but He has never been cruel or evil wity you. Instead, when you look back, you will find that He has been good with you.
How good has God been to me?
Asking these three questions will help me see how God’s love has operated in my past. As you start a new year, now is a good time to take a spiritual inventory of your life and see where you stand with God. Maybe you and God have not been on good terms lately. More precisely, you have not been on good terms with God. You have avoided him. You have disobeyed Him. You have neglected Him. Now is a good time to reflect on your past and see where God has been involved. This kind of reflective praying is important, because it can put your life in perspective. You can see the bigger where you notice God’s hand. Just as Solomon does here with this prayer, before he starts his reign as king, you might want to take some time to see how God has loved you in your past.
But the past is the past, which you cannot change. But you can change how you live in the present. God gives you every opportunity to live with Him in the present.
Request with a receptive heart from God in the present.
God asked a question that He still asks today:
God said,“Ask. What should I give you?”” (1 Kings 3:5, CSB)
God invites me to ask God what I should give myself. Think about this for a minute. God, who has control over the entire universe, wants to ask my opinion about what I want in my life. What do I want God to give me?
Solomon could have asked for anything really. But Solomon realized the enormity of the position he was placed in. He knew the awesome responsibility of being king because he had watched his father David. Based on his experience as a king’s son, Solomon asked for a receptive heart.
“So give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?”” (1 Kings 3:9, CSB)
What is Solomon really asking for? Solomon is asking God for a supernatural ability to listen to God so that He may act and behave as he should in his role as a king. Solomon wants to listen to God and know how to do the right thing. Solomon desires to seek God and His opinion in the matter.
The passage invites me to seek God and ask Him what He can give me. When you seek God, He always gives you more than you ask.
“I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again. In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no king will be your equal during your entire life.” (1 Kings 3:12–13, CSB)
This is why God is so good. He gives us what we ask and then some. It’s a lagniappe.
Lagniappe is Cajun for “a little something extra.” In foods, it is used to describe a little extra you get on the food, perhaps the spice. Originally, it referred to merchants who would give a little extra of something you bought as a bonus, like a thirteenth donut in the dozen. The slogan for Beaumont, Texas for example, is “Texas with a little something extra.” If Cajuns wrote this passage, they would call it the “Lagniappe” Scripture.2
Jesus said that God operates this way:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33, CSB)
When God asks something of you that you want, He operates in this fashion. He always provides more than what you asked for.
Reckon to properly relate to God in the future.
“If you walk in my ways and keep my statutes and commands just as your father David did, I will give you a long life.”” (1 Kings 3:14, CSB)
There are things that God gives us that we can ask for, which are unconditional based upon His love. Yet, there are also things that we can ask from God which have conditions. This is one of those conditional promises from God. God said that Solomon’s long life (another “something extra” God would give him) is based upon the assumption that Solomon follows God in obedience.
You see here that God tells Solomon that if he relates with God in a right way, then it will bring long life.
“My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.” (Proverbs 3:1–2, CSB)
This relating to God requires a love for Him. It requires a level of intimacy that many people have a hard time to maintain.
Many of those in ministry who fell for seduction had gotten so busy doing the work of God that they slipped away from pure intimacy with God.3
At 5 p.m. on April 12, 1945, Vice President Harry Truman, wearied by his afternoon in the United States Senate, ducked into Sam Rayburn’s private office in the Capitol. Someone mentioned to him that the White House had called. Harry picked up the phone and dialed the number, National 1414. Press Secretary Steve Early came on, voice tense, asking Truman to come to the White House “quickly and quietly.” He was to enter the main entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Harry exited the room alone, then began racing through the ornate halls of the Capitol, shoes pounding marble. He jumped in his old Mercury and sped through the traffic. At 5:25, he pulled under the north portico. Two ushers took his hat and escorted him to the small elevator. Waiting for him upstairs was Eleanor Roosevelt. “Harry,” she said, “the president is dead.”
Truman groped for words. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked at length.
“Is there anything we can do for you?” Eleanor replied. “You are the one in trouble now.”
That night, Truman took the oath of office as president of the United States, his hand resting on an inexpensive Gideon Bible grabbed from the desk of the White House’s head usher. The following Monday, Truman addressed a joint session of Congress. His speech lasted but fifteen minutes. Most of it had been written by presidential speechwriters, but the conclusion he had added himself. The Congress was hushed and the nation spellbound by their radios as he said: At this moment I have in my heart a prayer. As I have assumed my duties, I humbly pray Almighty God, in the words of King Solomon: “Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?” I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.4
1 Dianne Bergant, The Word for Every Season: Reflections on the Lectionary Readings (Cycle A) (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2010), 114–115.
2 Jim Erwin, “Lagniappe,” 16 August, 2012, Internet, Patheos, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2012/08/16/deuteronomy-1428-29-lagniappe/, accessed on 3 January 2020.
3 Beth Moore, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things: Finding Authentic Restoration in the Age of Seduction (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2002).
4 Robert J. Morgan, From This Verse: 365 Scriptures That Changed the World, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000).