Today was the day! His lunch was packed, breakfast was ready. He would be downstairs soon.
She heard him thunder down the stairs, his shoes squeaking on the hardwood floor as he flew into the kitchen. Happy first day of school, buddy! He did not share her enthusiasm. On the contrary – she immediately recognized a look of horror on her son’s face as he stood before her. What’s the matter?
I don’t know them! I don’t know my multiplication tables! He puffed out an exasperated sigh as he sat down at the counter across from her. I can’t go to school yet, Mom.
His serious manner kept her from chuckling at his remark, though she had a hunch her older son had been more than happy to boast in his 3rd grade math skills, striking fear in his kid brother. She smiled at her son as she reassured him, This is your very first day of school. Your teacher will be sure to tell you all you need to know about numbers and how they work together.
So at the right time, you will know your multiplication tables. She watched his face relax a bit as he let out another sigh, less frantic this time. Okay, he conceded. At the right time, she heard him mutter to himself as he returned upstairs.
Though a fictitious story, the image of a young child fretting over his lack of mathematical knowledge and academic wisdom is one that was expressed in a conversation I had with my roommates a few years ago. Both of them were preparing for marriage in the spring; pre-marital counseling was in full swing, wedding plans were being finalized. But still, all that would unfold on the other side of saying “I do” was a mystery, a reality completely foreign to both of my roommates. It seemed perfectly understandable that they would express their inadequacy and wonder, Am I ready to be a wife?
New territory is daunting. Whether we are a 5-year old starting kindergarten, a young woman preparing for marriage, a missionary entering the mission field, we doubt our readiness. Am I prepared for this? Starting a new job, moving across the country, leading a team of people at work or at church – new roles and positions, new stages in life make us acutely aware of our need for wisdom and guidance. It’s tempting though to wallow in our inadequacy at times – the task seems too impossible, the job promotion appears too demanding. The simple truth – I’ve never done this before – can leave us stuck lamenting our lack rather than moving us forward to seek the Lord for what He longs to grant us – wisdom.
It’s true, friends. The Lord wants to give us wisdom, and He calls us to seek understanding. The beautiful truth is this – to pursue wisdom and understanding for whatever the Lord has called us to goes hand in hand with knowing Him more. Growing in wisdom draws us closer to the heart of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding Proverbs 2:6 tells us.
A King’s Request
Soon after he is established as the king of Israel, Solomon, who also wrote most of Proverbs, is approached by the Lord in a dream. God simply says, “Ask. What should I give you?” Now serving in his father’s place, Solomon finds himself with new challenges and responsibilities he cannot face in his own strength. He is aware of what he lacks (and hence, what he needs from the Lord) and makes his request.
“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 numerous to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this. So God said to him, “Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to understand justice, 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. (I Kings 3:5-14, HCSB)
As I reflect on this passage, the boldness and humility of Solomon as he responds to the Lord’s questions jump off the page. First, Solomon recognizes his need – “Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership.” The Lord has appointed him over a nation of people “too numerous to be counted.” Solomon knows that to lead his people as their king and walk in the Lord’s ways as his father David did, he will need more than his own common sense. He needs wisdom and understanding from the Lord.
Second, Solomon makes his request to the Lord – “Give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil.” What I find stunning and encouraging is Solomon’s directness with the Lord. God has given this position to him; now he looks to the Lord to equip him. Solomon isn’t being pushy; he desires to honor the Lord and serve his people well. Solomon knows he needs wisdom to be king of Israel, so he confidently brings his request to the Lord.
Oh how difficult it can be to see our need for God’s wisdom! At times, I find myself acting just like the little boy in our story – I’m convinced I should know certain things by now or be mature enough in my faith to make decisions on my own. Indeed I am grateful for this account of Solomon in I Kings – an honest exchange between a man who wants to serve God and recognizes his need for God’s help to carry out his job with excellence. The humility of Solomon is also noteworthy. Having just stepped into the greatest position in the land, Solomon humbles himself before the Lord, declaring, “who is able to judge this great people of yours?” – and asks for guidance.
Scripture does not tell us how much time passes, but the very next paragraph records a scene in which Solomon must put the wisdom God has given him into practice. (see I Kings 3:16-28) The passage closes with Israel hearing of the king’s judgment – “they stood in awe of the king because they saw that God’s wisdom was in him to carry out justice.” (3:28) Solomon’s decision had impacted the two women who had come to him with their dispute, but it had also captivated the attention of his people. It was God’s wisdom working through Solomon that enabled him to rule with justice. This verse reminds us that ultimately the wisdom and understanding God gives to us is to glorify Him. When we approach God in humility and express our need, we are giving Him the glory, for we are acknowledging Him to be the source of wisdom.
Asking in Faith
James, in the New Testament, speaks of and further unpacks this very truth.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
In pulling back, I notice this passage is bookended by comments on trials and the maturity the Lord forms in us as we press on. James ties the joy-filled maturity that is birthed in us as we “experience many trials” with the wisdom needed to keep us grounded. Our journey with the Lord in this world will bring trials, circumstances with giant question marks that seek to throw us to and fro as a wave in the sea. Walking through trials requires wisdom – wisdom the Lord is ready to supply when we ask Him in faith.
Asking in faith. Yes – we must acknowledge our need, we must make our request, but we must also believe that the Lord will provide the wisdom we need. Whether we are faced with storms of heartache and difficulty or are beginning a new and unknown chapter of our lives, we have to trust the Lord will meet our needs, bringing glory to His Name in the process.
Hearing my roommate tell the anecdote of the 5-year old boy made me laugh in amusement, but the convicting relatability I found in his qualms made me realize how often I do the very same thing – tell the Lord how unprepared and ill-suited I am for the future. I don’t know my multiplication tables for the 5-year old. I don’t know how to be a wife for my engaged roommate. For me, being a caregiver is a role I never expected to have. While I “know the ropes” of technically caring for my father, I daily need the Lord’s wisdom to mold me into a caregiver who speaks with kindness, loves with grace, and listens with patience.
Solomon knew he needed more than “kingly know how”; he wasn’t simply in search of information on how to be the best king. He needed the Lord’s wisdom to form him into a ruler who obeyed God above all and served his people with justice.
Whether a king or a caregiver, the Lord provides each one of us with wisdom and strength at just the right time for whatever He’s called us to. Because ultimately, the Lord uses our specific roles and responsibilities to grow us as followers of Jesus Christ and bring Him glory.