T. Pierce Brown
The inspired and inspiring story of the choice of Solomon as recorded in 1 Kings 3:1-16 is worthy of our intensive study. He had been sacrificing offerings to God, with a great sense of gratitude and an awareness of his weakness and unworthiness. He exemplifies Jesus’ statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). The importance of making the right choices at the right time is beyond comprehension.
Every new opportunity or circumstance that confronts us demands a choice, or usually, many choices. Even with a somewhat insignificant event, many choices are involved. Suppose a friend says, “Let us go out and eat.” You have to choose first whether you go. Then you choose the time to go, the place to go, what to eat, and many other things.
Every choice, no matter how little it may be, involves your character. The things you choose, and the basis on which you choose them depends upon and suggests the kind of character you have and will have. Often a seemingly small choice will determine the direction of your whole life. I am told that there is a place inEuropewhere a person might stand and throw a piece of wood in one of three directions. If it falls in one stream at that point, it will flow north into one sea. If it falls into another stream nearby it will flow south into another sea. If it falls into another stream within reach it will flow west into another sea. Each destination is thousands of miles from the other, but at the beginning all the pieces of wood were very close together. Whether or not that is true, it illustrates the reality about our choices. To make it more realistic to you, think of standing on a spot and facing in one direction from which you may start walking. With just a slight turn, you are facing in another direction. If you start walking in that direction, you may end your journey several thousand miles from where you would have been had you started walking at the first point.
The greatest choices we can make are those that relate to serving humanity wisely under God’s direction. The most fundamental choice we can make is the one Joshua suggested in Joshua 24:15, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve—but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Keep in mind the principle involved here. Make the big choice right and most of the little choices are automatically made without difficulty. My choices of what drinks to serve at meals and what woman I take out to dinner were largely determined by one previous choice.
When I was a boy I read of Aladdin’s lamp with the genie that would grant wishes. God had a better offer to Solomon. “Ask what I shall give thee” (v. 5). There are some principles behind making any worthwhile choice. First, we need to cultivate the proper desire. Second, we need to make that choice consciously and deliberately. Third, verbalize that choice. Let us note an important difference between having a desire, and choosing that which will cause us to gain that desire. A person may want to be healthy. Choosing to exercise, eat properly and exercise self control are different matters. A person may wish he had the knowledge or ability to be an artist, pilot, swimmer, golfer or personal evangelist. To do the studying and practice that would give that is another thing. Brother Gus Nichols told of a woman who said, “I would give 40 years of my life to know the Bible like you do.” He replied, “That is what it took.” Of course she would not and did not, either before or after the conversation.
I am persuaded the same kind of situation confronts us. God has made promises to us that may surpass that offered to Solomon, but few of us take Him at His word, or accept them on His terms. 2 Peter 1:3,4 says, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.” Note some of them, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Even such a promise as the one found in 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 is not accepted by most of us. Do you have all sufficiency in all things? If not, perhaps the reason is that you have not accepted God’s promise on His terms. I am convinced that most of us do not really believe and accept Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Our faith and vision are both too small, or we would be doing far greater things for the Lord.
Solomon made a very wise choice. He said in verse 9, “Give thy servant an understanding heart.” Before he made that choice, he looked backward to God’s goodness and power, outward to the needs around him, inward to his inability to do his work by his own power, and upward to the source of the power he needed.
It is not enough to have the opportunity of choosing. One must decide what course to pursue, or what goals are worth working for. In Solomon’s case it was to discern what was good and bad and be able to do that which was best for all concerned. This should be our attitude. Then there was a statement of his desire. James 4:2 says, “Ye have not because ye ask not.” Could that also be a part of the reason for our not receiving more blessings? We do not really have our hearts set on worthwhile goals to the extent that we can specify those goals clearly. Often, we simply say, “Lord bless us.” Imagine a son who wants a bicycle, but only says to his father, “Bless me.” There are good reasons for God wanting us to specify. One of them is that unless we know what we want enough to define it clearly, probably if we received it we would not use it properly.
His choice pleased God because it indicated an attitude of humility. It was not for his selfish advantage. James 4:3 says, “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask to consume it on your own lusts.” It was both for the honor and good of his people, and for the glory of God. If our goals and aspirations always included those things, there is little doubt that we would receive far more things we want and need.
Because it was such a wise choice, he not only got what he asked for, but far more than he thought (vss. 12-13). When Jesus says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33), and when He said “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7), He was expressing the thoughts I want to emphasize in this article. When He said, “Ask what ye will” we must remember that our will must be to do His will. That is, the promises of God for granting our prayers involve the attitude of loving obedience. These promises are for every faithful child of God.