Who is Able?

Who is Able?

How many of us have asked for something today, whether from God or from another person? My guess is most of us have, with or without conscious thought. And what about the opposite – has anyone asked you for anything today? If you have children, probably the answer is yes. Something that has stayed with me from a sermon a few weeks ago about shamelessly bold prayer, is that children secure in their parents’ love will not be afraid to ask for big and little things. A child who knows they are loved by their parents can make audacious requests. 

In my prayer life, I am more prone to ask for small things than big; I suspect I’m not alone. But there’s a story in the Bible that has combated my tendency. 

Maybe you are familiar with this story – it’s a good one. We find it in 2 Chronicles 1 and 1 Kings 3, right at the outset of Solomon’s reign as king. After his father, David, has passed away, Solomon makes a thousand burnt offerings on the “most important high place” (1 Kings 3:4) in Gibeon, and afterward God appears to him. 

In a dream most of us would love to have, God tells Solomon, Ask for whatever you want me to give you. Astoundingly, Solomon doesn’t reach for what most of us would (a thousand more wishes, obviously), but he asks for something no less audacious: he asks for wisdom and knowledge, a discerning heart, able to distinguish between right and wrong. 

Why does Solomon ask for this? What is his motivation? In the chapters before this dream takes place, we have seen David prepare Solomon to be king; we have seen him pray for Solomon; we have seen the Israelite people come before God and give generously for the temple Solomon will build. Furthermore, David has provided one of the best examples Solomon could hope for as a king who seeks to lead God’s people well! 

But in his heart, Solomon knows that’s not enough. He knows he still needs something crucial: God’s wisdom. 

Solomon says something deeply profound to God: “You have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties… for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Ki 3:7,9)

I will never be an authority over people in the same way Solomon was, but I can deeply identify with his sentiments here. First, Solomon recognizes that God is the one who appointed his kingship (not David); it is not man’s desire or will that has resulted in Solomon’s reign. Secondly, Solomon identifies correctly that Israel as a nation belongs not to him but to another Ruler. These people are God’s people, not Solomon’s. He is only the temporary caretaker, overseer, and head. 

And because of these two facts, Solomon feels the weight of his appointment. He asks, Who is able to govern these people of yours? When we are honest with ourselves, there’s not a single one of us who can’t ask God this question. Who is able? Who can be the spouse we want to be, the parent, the Christian, or anything at all without God’s wisdom? 

We are in the same state as Solomon: little children, utterly dependent on a wise Father. Do we have the humility to recognize this and ask accordingly?  

A distant God would have a completely different response to such an audacious request, but that makes the Lord’s answer to Solomon even sweeter. 1 Kings 3:10 simply says “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.” A simple verse, yes, but it shows something about our heavenly Father… he delights to give Solomon what he asks for and even more than that. God gives abundantly, not just for what Solomon most desires, but even what he hasn’t asked for. James 1:5 says that “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.” (italics added) James is so confident in God’s abundance that he says – through the Holy Spirit’s prompting! – that God will certainly give wisdom when we ask! Not because we are the ones asking, but because we petition God himself, who is able to give what we ask for. 

Whatever other doubts we have in our lives as Christians – whether we’re making the right decisions, leading well, listening to the right voices, and so many other daily decisions – let’s not lose sight of the fact that we can ask God for his wisdom. Apart from being pleased that we asked, he will give it. This is not to make us smarter or more prideful – but he gives his wisdom to the effect that we can know him more deeply, obey him more fully, and worship him more vibrantly. 


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