Welcome to Week 4 of our devotional series on those common Christian beliefs that have been overlooked or misunderstood. Today, we’re going to take a look at one of the most well-known stories in the Bible — the story of Solomon’s Wish for Wisdom. In a world driven by the search for knowledge, where it seems increasingly difficult knowing what is true and what is not, what role should the Bible play? Does the Bible’s importance lie in it being a sacred storehouse of knowledge and facts, or is the Bible’s importance geared more toward the way it teaches us wisdom and transforms our lives? Are these two options mutually exclusive? Let’s take a look… 

Holy God! You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path. May it be so right now, too. Amen.


1 Kings 3:5-14
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

“Who You Say I Am” — Words and Music by Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan; Performed by Hillsong (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)

Who am I that the highest King would welcome me 
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me 
Oh His love for me 

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed 
I’m a child of God, yes I am

Free at last he has ransomed me
His grace runs deep while I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me 
Yes, He died for me 

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed 
I’m a child of God, yes I am
In my Father’s house 
There’s a place for me 
I’m a child of God, yes I am

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am 

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” It’s a modern proverb we all learned when we were young — better to teach someone how to do something for themselves rather than just do it for them. That way, they might learn a skill that changes their life, and they might even go change other people’s lives too because of it (by teaching them how to fish, of course). 

My favorite example of this proverb in action happened while I was attending seminary at Baylor, and it had nothing to do with fishing. I had submitted a paper to the journal Fides et Historia on the historical and cultural context of the theologian Karl Barth, hoping (and maybe  even arrogantly assuming) they would eagerly publish it. It didn’t make it passed the first review. The journal’s lead editor sent me a multipage response saying he was sorry, but my piece simply didn’t say anything new. And academic publishing is all about adding new thoughts or discoveries to the conversation, not repeating what is already available elsewhere.

After the initial shock of being so thoroughly rejected, however, I realized I’d been given a gift. Slowly and over many long, single-spaced pages, this kind editor began to teach me that true scholarship was less about learning new information and more about developing the skills needed to research well. In other words, he began to teach me how to think and not what to think. He gave me my own pole instead of my own fish. It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

Solomon seems to have had a similar experience that strange night at Gibeon, except he knew what to ask for from the start.

“O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people…Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.”

Give me wisdom, God, wisdom to govern well in whatever situation and when the facts aren’t black and white. Teach me how to think, Solomon asks, when the consequences are real and the issues complex. Don’t just give me information; show me how to use it.

But this isn’t how we think nowadays. Nearly all of our energy goes toward gaining new knowledge, making new discoveries, uncovering missing facts. Very little of it goes toward understanding how best to use that information or even why we need it in the first place. One of the unsung crises that hit the medical field when Covid started was the ethics of how to treat an entire population exposed or at risk, especially when the supply of testing kits and then vaccines didn’t meet the demand. Knowledge alone can’t save; and yet, knowledge in action just might.

Sure enough, this “give me wisdom” idea appears to be the big theme of the Bible as a whole — to the point that we’d be right to say that God gave us scripture so that we’d become wise as God is wise. The Bible is here to change our lives so that we live like Christ, not make us smarter or more important than our neighbors who don’t know what we know. Listen to how James puts it in the New Testament: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” Notice how all these terms are action-oriented? Wisdom is what we do with the knowledge that we’ve been created in the image of a humble, merciful, and all-loving God. 

No wonder, then, we find the Apostle Paul warning us that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The Bible contains a lot of information, but that information has a purpose besides sitting in our heads. Ever wonder why Trivial Pursuit was called “trivial”? Our knowledge and information must change our lives and make us wise — or else we’re just noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. “God must speak to your heart,” the great Reformer Martin Luther once preached, because while “a person can preach the Word to me, no one is able to put it into my heart except God alone.” 

So, let’s put ourselves in Solomon’s shoes: Where do you need some wisdom today? How can God change your life by putting the Word into your heart right now?

Closing Prayer
God of All Wisdom, Giver of All Life — We ask not for the riches of money or knowledge and the power they bring, but for lives transformed by your Spirit so that we might become evermore like your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 153.

*There will not be a Thursday Devotional next week while Pastor Jason is out of town. Be sure to check back in on August 5th for more on those parts of the Bible that are commonly overlooked or misunderstood.