5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” . . . . . . 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:5,9)
The Bible demands and rewards careful reading. It’s tempting to approach Scripture with what you think you already know about it. It’s the “I’ve heard this story a million times” syndrome. Today was one of those days when I was surprised by something that isn’t in the text that I had always thought was there. See if you noticed it too.
At Gibeon, God spoke to Solomon in a dream. As a side note, did you know that Solomon is the only king of Israel God ever spoke to in a dream? There is a definite connection between worship and hearing from God. When believers participate in worship, they put themselves in a position to more readily hear from God.
God appears to Solomon and says to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”
And in the Hebrew, that is all God says. Notice that the text doesn’t say God promised to give Solomon whatever he asked for. Unfortunately, there are several English translations that have added that phrase. I know I gave a shout out to The Living Bible a few days ago in a blog post just a few days ago, (See A Mom Who Taught Me to Love God’s Word), but here, the Living Bible paraphrase is just bad:
The Lord appeared to him in a dream that night and told him to ask for anything he wanted, and it would be given to him!
No He didn’t! And bless your heart, Living Bible, but the exclamation point at the end somehow makes it worse. It’s like the paraphrase is saying, Can you believe it? You’ve found the greatest vending machine in the Universe! You just put your coin in, pull the knob, and it will be given you!
No. A thousand times no.
There’s actually two assumptions to deal with here. Not only did God not promise to give Solomon what he requested, but He also did not invite Solomon to ask for whatever Solomon wanted. Look at what the verse says, and not what we wished it said:
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”
God was inviting Solomon to express what he needed most as a king. There is a huge difference between “What do you want?” and “What do you need?”
Rather than begin with a wish list, Solomon replied by praising God for His great and faithful love—first to his father David and then to Solomon himself. Solomon then acknowledged his own shortcomings and inadequacy (v. 7); followed by the overwhelming nature of the task. Only then did he make his request:
9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
Solomon concluded his request by once again acknowledging his own inability to accomplish such a great task on his own.
We should never see this passage—or anything else in Scripture—as a formula for getting what you ask for in prayer. However, verses 6-9 do serve as a great pattern for us to follow as we make our own requests to God.
- Begin with praise for God’s character and His love toward you.
- Humbly admit your need and agree with God that you are powerless to meet that need on your own.
- And make sure what you are asking for is aligned with what God has already expressed to be His sovereign will.
Look at verse 10:
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.
Can you imagine what a joy it would be to know that God was pleased by what you requested in prayer? We can experience that joy on a regular basis when our requests are in accordance with God’s will. In this case, God desired for His people to be led by a wise and discerning king, so He delighted in doing what Solomon had asked.
God doesn’t merely delight in giving good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11); God delights in His children! God so delighted in Solomon that He even gave him what he didn’t ask for: riches and honor (v 13); and a long life (v 14). This is a great example of the truth of Ephesians 3:20-21; that God is able to give us even more than we ask or think!