Lord Jesus, as I move into this new week, I am reminded that you are called “Immanuel,”—”God with us.” That you are with us—that you are with me—is astounding. You are with me while I write, you are with me while I work, you are with me when I play with my kids and you are with me when I lose my patience or give in to the temptation to spread gossip. In every moment of every season of my life, you are with me. You are with me on the heights, when my heart is bursting with joy, and you are with me in the valley of the shadow of death, when fear threatens to consume me, and you are with me every moment in between. I pray this week for a deeper awareness of your constant presence. I pray that “Immanuel” will be in my thoughts, and that this deeper awareness of your presence will be a source of comfort, courage, and accountability for all I will be part of in the week to come and beyond. I ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen.
Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great. Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges, and to all the leaders in all Israel, the heads of fathers’ houses. And Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon, for the tent of meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness, was there. (But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the LORD. And Solomon and the assembly sought it out. And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it. In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” So Solomon came from the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel. (2 Chronicles 1:1-13 ESV)
When I was a little girl, my friends and I would occasionally entertain the fantasy of a genie in a bottle. There was a time in my life when I believed something like that actually existed—yes, I loved watching reruns of I Dream of Jeannie as a child—and I would labor over what my three wishes would be. I don’t remember now what my first two wishes were, but I do remember what my third wish was: enough money to buy anything I ever wanted for the rest of my life.
I used to think of that whenever I read this passage. This is one of the closest things the Bible gives us to a “genie in a bottle” moment: God comes to Solomon and says, essentially, “Ask me for anything.” And though Solomon was “but a little child” (1 Kings 3:7 ESV), he didn’t ask for any of the things I would have asked for as a child. He asked for wisdom and understanding so that he could lead effectively.
If you ask me, Solomon already possessed wisdom beyond his years. And, in his wisdom, he knew to ask for… more wisdom. Chew on that for a second.
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The Bible may not be full of “genie in a bottle” moments, but Solomon was not the only one God invited to ask for anything.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14 ESV)
Like Solomon, we who are believers in Christ are invited to ask anything of God, which has led many to pursue a posture toward prayer that is exactly the opposite of how Solomon prayed. Some professing Christians use this passage as a defense for praying for wealth, possessions, honor, and health—the very things God commended Solomon for not asking for.
Sometimes the things that are most noteworthy are not what we do, but what we don’t do. We all know what Solomon did ask for: wisdom.
But, without looking back at the passage, can you remember the things Solomon did not ask for? Because that’s what seems to have impressed God most about Solomon’s “big ask.”
He did not ask for possessions.
He did not ask for wealth.
He did not ask for honor.
He did not ask for health.
And he did not ask for revenge on those who had wronged him.
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The Bible is a book, to be sure, but the Bible is also a mirror. Engaging with scripture shows me the metaphorical “spinach in my teeth” as I seek to live a godly life. Scripture helps me to see where I am missing the mark (which is the original Ancient Greek meaning of the word “sin”), and the mark, of course, being Christ’s example. But it also shows me the hope I have. To paraphrase Dr. Garry Friesan, who spoke at last weekend’s Multnomah University commencement ceremony in Portland, “The Bible is a mirror: it shows us our faults, but also points to who we are becoming as we are transformed.” (i.e. 2 Cor 3:18)
Aside from the lesson that a wise person prays for more wisdom, we can also let God’s commendation of Solomon for what he didn’t ask for be a mirror for our prayer lives. Knowing that God has invited us to ask him for anything, what kinds of things are we asking for? What motivates most of our prayers?
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It was that last one that got me this week.
A friend who hurt me deeply years ago and then disappeared from my life came out of the woodwork over the weekend. There was no mention of the offense. There was no acknowledgement of the hurt. My old friend acted as though nothing ever happened. And in a moment, much of the progress I had made in moving on was undone. Anger, bitterness, pain, and confusion all came back.
But God had been preparing me for this.
Last Sunday at my parents’ church, their pastor said something that has haunted me all week. He was reflecting on the previous Sunday’s text—Acts 7—particularly the story of the stoning of Stephen, when he said this:
I was struck last Sunday by the closing scene of Stephen’s life as chapter seven ends, how he forgives those who are murdering him: hateful, self-righteous, religious hypocrites. That is fascinating to me. How do you forgive someone in the middle of them murdering you?… Would I have responded like that, to that kind of opposition? How would you have responded?… While he was being pummeled with rocks… while his body is crumbling under the weight of stones mingled with anger and hatred and injustice, while he is suffocating under a pile of cruelty and violence and evil, he utters two final statements: “Lord Jesus, I am yours. Take my spirit.” A final statement of submission to the lordship of Christ that defines who he is: “I’m yours.” And then, he utters this second final word, which is absolutely fascinating. Falling to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Imitating Christ in his final breath. How do you do that? That is the power of God’s grace. That is the most powerful thing in the world. That is the glory of God reclaiming a soul that is rightfully his. Stephen’s life was centered on the glory of God in Christ, and his all-consuming desire was to please God above all else.” (from “Simon the Glory Thief,” Acts 8:4-25, 1/3/16)
As I left church that day, this question hounded me: when’s the last time I was wronged by someone—in a big or little way—and my prayer for them was, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them?” Twenty-four hours later, the old friend, the one who hurt me, popped back onto my radar via my inbox.
“Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you…”
When I was tempted to hope for justice, for the wrong to be made known, for an apology to come, for my old friend to experience some humbling circumstances, I was confronted by that sermon and this text from 2 Chronicles. Is it wrong to ask for these things? No, I do not think so. But do I want to do what “isn’t wrong?” Or do I want to pray in such a way that God would smile and say, “Well done, my daughter?”
I want that second thing.
Sometimes it’s not what you ask for. It’s what you don’t ask for that exposes a heart that beats with the wisdom of God’s insight and the mercy of God’s grace. May that be our heartbeat this week as we continue to seek out and, yes, to grow in wisdom.
Week Two Printable: a free PDF containing four images of this week’s verse. You are encouraged to print them, cut them out, and place them in areas of your life (home, car, desk) where you will see them often throughout the week.
Week Two Smartphone Wallpaper: an image formatted for your smartphone featuring this week’s verse. You are encouraged to make this your wallpaper for the week, so you will see it every time you use your phone.