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When Overcome by Responsibilities

 

1 Kings 3:1-15
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, August 5

 

There are seasons in our lives when we feel overwhelmed by responsibilities. We sometimes find ourselves at the mercy of what one author called “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” There are times in our lives when we find ourselves moving from crisis to crisis, adding responsibility to responsibility, until we feel that we are going to be crushed by the weight of all the burdens we are carrying.

Solomon was facing such a time. Chapters 1-2 describe the dangerous politics that led to Solomon’s succession to the throne. For the nation, it was a time of uncertainty following David’s long reign. Solomon rightly understood that only in turning to God could he find both the wisdom and ability to take on the new and weighty responsibility of being king over God’s people.

 

Turn to the Lord - 1 Kings 3:1-4

We are told that Solomon made an alliance with the Pharaoh of Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter. Here Solomon begins a practice of marrying for political purposes that will eventually lead him away from worshipping the Lord (1 Kings 11:1-13). This is a reminder to us as believers to be careful of what influences we allow into our lives.

At first, worldly influences may seem innocuous, or even helpful. Making a political alliance with Egypt brought peace to Solomon’s southern border. In time however, those influences can become so much a part of who we are that they turn our heart away from God, as did Solomon’s wives.

Solomon goes to the high place at Gibeon to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. High places were open air shrines that were frequently located on hills. It is likely that many high places were located in spots that had originally been sacred to the Canaanites, although God had commanded the invading Israelites to destroy them.

An exception to the ban on worshipping at high places seemed to have existed in the time between the destruction of the worship center at Shiloh and the building of the Temple. Gibeon, eight miles northwest of Jerusalem, was considered the most important high place because the Tabernacle and the altar for the burnt offering dating back to the time of Moses were located there (2 Chron. 1:2-13). Solomon recognized the need to seek God’s guidance for the difficult task of ruling the people, so he offers a grand sacrifice. His actions remind us that our first response in facing our responsibilities is to seek God’s guidance through worship, sacrifice, and prayer.

 

Focus on what’s important - 1 Kings 3:5-9

At Gibeon, God visits Solomon in a dream and asks him the question, “What should I give you?” How would you and I respond to such a question? Would our own selfishness get the best of us, or would we be able to ask for the best things?

We should note some important things about Solomon’s response. His prayer begins not with a petition, but with remembering God’s faithfulness and love for his father, David. Solomon recognized that David’s success was a result of his obedience to God.

Solomon also recognized that his place as King was a direct result of David’s faithfulness and integrity. In making that acknowledgement, Solomon understands that he, too, must depend on the Lord for wisdom to govern his people. His declaration that he is just a youth was a common idiom for lack of experience and knowledge in all that was involved in administrating and governing a vast kingdom.

Having first confessed his inheritance of faith and his dependence on God, Solomon then moved to his request: He asked God for an “obedient” (HCSB) or an “understanding” (KJV) heart. For the Hebrews, the “heart” was the seat of knowledge and wisdom, as well as the will. Today, we would use the term “mind” to convey the same meaning. Literally, Solomon asked for a “hearing” or “listening” heart.

The concepts of hearing and obeying were linked together in the ancient mind because both terms came from the same root word. Only those who “obeyed” had really “heard.” Solomon must obey the Lord by keeping His commands so that his heart would be prepared to lead others. Solomon’s understanding of his role as Yahweh’s servant ran counter to the models for kingship in his day.

In a time when kings sought glory for themselves, Solomon recognized his responsibility before God to his people. Daily we are faced with the choice of living for our glory or God’s service. To choose to serve God is to run counter to a culture that is obsessed with self. Our requests reveal what sort of person we are. Solomon’s request for a receptive heart showed that he was ready to receive all that God had to offer.

 

Walk in God’s ways - 1 Kings 3:10-15

Good ruling and good living begin not just in prayer, but in a prayer that submits to God’s will. God was pleased with Solomon because Solomon’s request was what God wanted for his people — a wise and discerning ruler. God promised to grant him all the things he did not ask for. God not only answered, but his answer surpassed Solomon’s request. God also reminded Solomon that divine blessings are linked to obedience. If we walk in selfishness and disobedience, we cannot expect God to bless us. Solomon’s response to this encounter was one of worship. Worship is the only proper response when one encounters God.

Solomon’s encounter with God at the beginning of his reign reminds us that when we face challenging and overwhelming situations, our only option is to look to God. Not only will He provide the resources to meet our responsibilities, He will give us the wisdom to manage and use those resources to accomplish His will.