“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
What would you say if the One who is sovereign over everything told you to ask for anything? What would be the first answer that comes to your mind? What would your answer say about the condition of your heart?
King Solomon was invited to answer God in this – to ask Him for whatever he wanted to be given. In 1 Kings 3:4-9 we read of this invitation by God to Solomon:
The king [Solomon] went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
What an incredible invite! And before we consider Solomon’s response, which has a lot for us to learn from, first consider the process and backstory to how Solomon found himself in this place, deciding to respond the way that he did.
A few chapters back in the book of 1 Kings, we see that Solomon’s father, King David, is very old and is apparently bed-ridden. As he nears the end of his life, the question of a successor is probably on everyone’s mind. The kingdom will need a king, and David had a lot of sons – 19 born to him by his wives (1 Chronicles 3:1-6). As King David lays on his bed, Adonijah, another of his sons, decides to make himself king in his father’s place.
1 Kings 1:5
Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.
Take note that Adonijah wasn’t appointed as king, but he took it upon himself to rally support and claim the kingship for himself. That’s a pretty bold move. And this wasn’t the first time that one of David’s sons had tried to become king. Earlier, David’s son Absalom conspired to undermine him completely and to claim the throne for himself.
2 Samuel 15:10
Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.
If you keep reading in 2 Samuel, you find out that Absalom actually rallied a lot of support, causing his father David to fear for his life and to flee the capital city. Ultimately, the rebellion results in an armed conflict between David’s people and those loyal to Absalom, and Absalom is killed in the conflict. And King David is bitterly sad over the death of his son.
Consider that history as you picture King David, now an old man, laying in his bed as another one of his sons tries to appoint himself as king of Israel. Adonijah has gathered people together, trying to claim the throne. Imagine the emotions running through the city, through the royal family, and in David’s heart when he learns of this. But Solomon’s mother goes to David and reminds him that he promised Solomon would be king after him. David agrees that he indeed did make this promise and did want to name Solomon as king, and so he orders that Solomon be anointed as king even as his brother Adonijah was continuing to trumpet himself as the new king.
1 Kings 1:32-35
King David said, “Call in Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, he said to them: “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.”
All of this is the precursor to Solomon’s reign as king and the lead up to the invitation from God to Solomon, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon’s posture and answer to God’s question is also so interesting in light of the culture around him. Solomon has been surrounded by power-grabbing, self-seeking, manipulative actions. He has seen his brothers take it into their own hands to get what they want, thinking only of themselves. His brother Absalom, who rebelled first and ultimately died in that conflict, lived a lavish lifestyle, taking advantage of all of the perks of royalty. He undermined David’s authority in the city gates, saying that he would be a better judge and ruler.
2 Samuel 15:1-4
In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”
He built a monument to himself:
2 Samuel 18:18
During his lifetime absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, I have no son to carry on the memory of my name. He named the pillar after himself and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
And he was willing to fight his father for the throne.
2 Samuel 17:1-4
Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
In contrast, Solomon was rightfully appointed as king by his father. He didn’t fight for it or rally support to his cause to win the throne. In fact, it was his mom, not Solomon himself, who reminded King David of his promise to make Solomon the next king. Solomon was by no means perfect, and in the course of his life he made some bad choices too. But as Solomon responds to God’s invitation here, we see a stark contrast to his brothers in how he postures himself and in his perspective of the role he has been given.
In 1 Kings 3:5-9, King Solomon responds to God’s invitation:
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 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?”
I think there are some incredible lessons to be learned here from Solomon’s response to God:
Solomon acknowledges that his position has been given to him by God, not something he has earned or deserves.
“You have made your servant king in place of my father David.” … “You have shown great kindness.”
He realizes the grace and the blessing that God has given. He doesn’t see himself as being owed or deserving of his status, but recognizes that it is by God’s grace and action that this has happened. His perspective of God and of himself is shaped by this understanding, and it impacts all of his motivations and desires in this moment.
We aren’t entitled to or deserving of any status we may have. Knowing that has a huge impact on our lives and our relationship to God.
Solomon responds in humility and acknowledges his weakness
“I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.”
While some read this as a statement of Solomon’s actual age, many agree that Solomon was not a child at this time, but that this is purely an acknowledgement of his weakness and inadequacy in the role he’s been given. He is facing a huge job with responsibility for an entire nation. In this moment, he feels that weight and is acknowledging his weakness and need for God’s equipping.
Matthew Henrey, in his commentary on this passage, said “The more wise and considerate men are, the better acquainted they are with their own weakness.” It is good for us to acknowledge our weakness and dependency on God. Whether you are facing the responsibilities of a leader, of a parent, of husband or wife, or of some other role, you’ve likely had moments where you’ve felt overwhelmed and inadequate. Acknowledging your weakness, rather than trying to fake it or just get through on your own strength, is a good posture to take in God’s presence!
Solomon knew that having a role does not immediately equate to being qualified
Solomon saw that he was one among many of God’s chosen people
Do we approach life like Solomon, who knows that apart from God he is lacking this understanding and wisdom, or do we approach it like Absalom, assuming we know it all and that our ways are best? Remember what Absalom was doing outside the city gates as he undermined David? He said “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.” What arrogance to assume that he was equipped solely to administer justice. What a disaster that could have been to have someone who viewed himself as elite, not one among his people, being the judge over their matters. We can’t be effective in any area of our life when we don’t view ourselves as a part of that community. Whether that’s our neighbors, our own family, or people we have responsibility for leading. If we see ourselves as better than others, it creates a barrier and it’s hard to care for and engage with them.
Solomon asked for the sake of others
“So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”
Solomon’s request wasn’t selfish. It benefited him, certainly, but was for the sake of his people and for the purpose of promoting justice and truth. He wanted to lead in a way that was good for his people. He put his ministry of kingship before any selfish motivation or perk that may have come with the job.
And God honored that response, acknowledging that Solomon didn’t ask for selfish things:
1 Kings 3:11-12
So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.
This was a heart-revealing moment for Solomon, and God took an opportunity to tell him that his request would be granted “since you have asked for this, and not…” something else. Though it may have appeared to be, God didn’t give Solomon a blank check in this moment. There was a right and a wrong response to God’s invitation, and the answer revealed the motives of the heart. One response revealed a heart of humility that desired to lead well and rely on God’s equipping. That response led to blessing and to a request granted. Had Solomon instead requested for God to kill his enemies or provide him with personal benefits, God likely would have responded in rebuke and in refusal of the request. God is consistent in opposing the proud and showing favor to the humble (James 4:6). Solomon’s humility and right perspective revealed the condition of his heart, and God honored that posture and equipped him for the role he was in.
So what about you?
We have, in fact, been invited by God to answer a similar question. Jesus said in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” But this also is not a blank check. Jesus isn’t inviting us to view Him as our personal genie, but is reminding us that He is with us and will equip us for the role and task He has given to us. That when the desire of our heart is to bring Him glory and to carry out the mission He has invited us into, when our heart is postured correctly, that He will give us the ability that is necessary to fulfill that role.
How we answer this question and what we desire to ask of God reveals much about the condition of our heart. What does it reveal about your heart’s condition?