1 Kings 3:1-15
Dreaming: The Wisdom of Solomon
Many of us have probably heard scenarios or seen film clips or Disney movies or been asked some variation of a question like this: You find a magic lamp and a genie appears telling you you have three wishes. What do you wish for? Of course, I’ve always thought your first wish should be to ask for unlimited wishes! But sometimes in these stories we discover a bit of a morality tale – the wisher asks for something selfish, or foolish, or doesn’t realize that wishing always comes with a price, like in the short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” where the wish for 200 pounds is granted through the death of the wisher’s son, or the story where the man wishes for sausages, and then wishes the sausages attached to his wife’s nose, since she made fun of his wish, and then finally has to use his third wish to remove the sausages. But all of these stories share the basic question: if you could wish for anything what would you ask for?
We stumble on a Biblical version of that question in our reading for today, as we look at another dream in the Old Testament, this time skipping ahead to 1 Kings. The books of 1 and 2 Kings recount a period in Israel’s history after the time of the judges when Israel becomes a monarchy. God had wanted the people to rely on only God as their king, but the people kept clamoring to be like other nations. So God let them have a king. Only, the first round didn’t go so well. Saul was the first king, and though he started out well, eventually the power seemed to go to his head, and Samuel, the prophet, next anointed David to be the king. David is remembered as the favorite of all the kings of Israel; the standard to which all other kings would be held; the “good old days” of Israel.
It is not David’s oldest child who succeeds him, but instead Solomon, child of David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hitite. Remember, David had Uriah killed in battle so that he wouldn’t find out that David had had an affair with Bathsheba, who then became pregnant. That child died, but after a period of mourning and repentance, David and Bathsheba had more children together, including Solomon. When David is near death, Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan urge David to select Solomon as the new king.
During his reign, David had wanted to build a temple, a “home” for God. But God told David this task would not be his, but his son’s. Now, after a tumultuous transition of power, Solomon is king. We’re told that Solomon loves God and follows God just as his father David tried to do. He makes offerings to God at the high places. In the context of this passage, this means literally the highest places in the area – these places were considered holy, where you could literally be closer to God. So Solomon regularly worshipped God at the high places. At one such place, Gibeon, after making an offering to God, God appears to Solomon in a dream. God says to Solomon, “ask what I should give you.” And Solomon replies: you were always with my father David, who was just and upright and faithful. And now I’m king, but I’m inexperienced, and I don’t know much about governing this great people of yours. So give me understanding to discern between good and bad so I can lead your people.” God is pleased with Solomon’s request, and not only says Solomon will receive wisdom, but also riches and long-life as well. And then we read, “Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream.” But Solomon offers more acts of worship to God, and treats all of his servants to a feast. Just after our text today, we see Solomon’s wisdom in action, as he deals justly and with a discerning mind to the conflicts his people bring to him.
What do you think of this exchange between God and Solomon? If we just told God what we wanted, would God say yes? Some people, I think, view God as a sort of genie in a magic lamp, who whimsically approves or denies wishes depending on God’s mood, sort of like a temperamental Magic 8 Ball. Have you seen the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty? Although it is a comedy, I think there are some interesting theological points in the movie. In one scene, Bruce, who gets to take on all God’s power and responsibilities for a brief time – is answering all the email prayer requests that come to God. Bruce thinks it will be so easy. But he soon gets frustrated trying to keep up with the millions of requests individually, so he just replies “yes” to all the requests. You’d think that would be great, right? Everyone’s requests to God answered with a “yes, sure, whatever you want!” But in the film, when everyone gets a “yes,” the results bring total chaos. For example, everyone who prays to win the lottery does – but since so many people win, everyone gets only $1 or so, and everyone is upset, not happy. The point is: God responding to our needs is maybe more complicated than we humans can understand.
Still, here’s the question I think is more important: Do we believe that God wants to know our heart’s desire? Does God want to know what we want? Does God want to know what our dreams are? When I think about our hopes and dreams and how God answers our prayers, I think the image of God as our parent is so very powerful. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, by blood or by gift of the heart: do you want to know what the children in your life want? Do you want to know their heart’s desire? Do you want to know what they dream about doing and being and becoming? Of course, right? But despite that unconditional love, you, in your wisdom, won’t always grant every request. In fact, because of your love, you won’t say “yes” to every request. But when you hear the deep longings, the true expression of the heart’s desire of the child in your life – wouldn’t you seek to do everything you could to help that dream come true? Wouldn’t your child’s dream fill you with joy?
I believe that God wants to know everything about us. Sure, God knows us already. But God loves best, I think, when we open ourselves up to God, when we let our hopes and joys and dreams and fears and doubts be known of our own accord. And when God knows that what we’re dreaming will bring us life, and will bring love and light to others, I believe that God responds to us like God responds to Solomon – fulfilling in us what we’ve imagined and beyond.
And so then the question is left up to us: Do we know what we really want? If God came to us like God did to Solomon and said, “Ask for what you want,” what would you ask for? Maybe your first impulse is to ask for a million dollars, or that new car that you always wanted. But is that your heart’s desire, truly? In our book study text, Dare to Dream, Michael Slaughter tells us our God-purpose in life is something that honors God, blesses other people, and brings us joy – all three of those things. Honors God. Blesses others. Brings you joy. What might do that in your life? I promise, God wants to know how you might answer that question. God wants to help you answer it if you can’t. And I believe that God wants to say “yes” to that dream for you. And then astonish you by how much beyond even that dream God will draw out of your life.
God is saying to you: “Ask what I should give you.” How will you answer? I think God would love to know. Amen.