April 30, 2008

An Unbelievable Offer!

1 Kings 3. It is one of those stories that is almost proverbial. Even many non-church-goers would be able to give at least a skeleton outline of the events. God gives Solomon a genie-in-a-bottle-like dream come true: “Ask what you wish me to give you” (v.5). What an offer! And this is no genie in a bottle! This is the Creator and sustainer of the universe making the offer! Now, amazingly, we find that Solomon – with such a no-strings-attached kind of offer on the table – does something remarkable: he does not ask for riches, or for fame, or for long life … but for wisdom to govern God’s people. Would that we all prayed like that! What a delightful example Solomon has set for us all! And how good of God to answer his prayer!

Now most of us begin and end our thinking about this vignette with admiration for, and the desire to be like Solomon in our praying – not inappropriate reactions by any means. But I want to show you that there is something much more amazing, much more heart-warming than Solomon’s selfless prayer in 1 Kings 3. Read the few verses that lead up to God’s unbelievable offer (1 Kings 3.3-5 – emphasis mine):

“Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you.’”

Solomon had one big sin problem – “he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places”, which was strictly forbidden by God. I say it was a big sin problem because, as we read, he didn’t do it occasionally, or half-heartedly. No, we read that in the high place “Gibeon … Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings.” Let’s put Solomon’s sin problem into a modern metaphor. If the problem had been drinking, people would have said: ‘Oh no. Solomon is not a social drinker, he’s a real drunk.’ That is how committed Solomon was to his sin habit. He offered a thousand offerings on this one forbidden altar! Though he tried to mix them up with worship of the one true God, Solomon was intoxicated with the idolatrous rituals of the pagan nations around him.

So Solomon would go up to his favorite pagan shrine, the one in Gibeon, and do his thing. And well we might expect the LORD to meet him there – maybe with the same sword that quivered over Balaam and his donkey; perhaps with the angel of death that passed through the land of Egypt in times of old; perhaps at least with the promise of dysfunction which overtook his father after the affair with Bathsheba. O yes, after what Solomon has been doing, we certainly might expect God to meet him in Gibeon! And this God does … but not with a scourge! “In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you.’”

Wow! Just when we expect God to drop the gavel on Solomon … He grants him the greatest blessing of his life! And I am reminded that, in Christ, this is exactly how God has dealt with us. Before I knew Jesus, I was certainly dabbling in my own ‘high places’ – my own selfish pursuits and sinful desires. And it couldn’t even be said of me (as it was of Solomon) that I “loved the Lord.” So, somewhere along the line, it was inevitable that God would meet me, and have a few words with me. But, to the surprise of anyone who understands God’s justice, He didn’t meet me with a sword in his hand, but a nail-print; He didn’t meet me with a scourge, but with scourge marks on His back; He didn’t meet me with a death knell, but with an offer more unbelievable than the one He gave Solomon: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10.13).

It seems counter-intuitive – that God would meet us with blessings “in Gibeon.” The world calls it foolishness. But the Bible calls it “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1.21). And, even better than possessing the wisdom of Solomon, is knowing and trusting the wisdom of God in Jesus!

2 comments:

Jeremiah Mattingly said...

Kurt,

It does seem that Solomon at least had an initial Spirit-wrought love for the Lord (v.2) though, as you said, he was still clinging to the remnants of pagan religion. What a clear picture of God meeting us in our weaknesses, graciously blessing us even when we are ignorant. I think back on some of the things I said/did when I was a less mature Christian and I’m so thankful that God still blessed me and brought me along in my understanding.

Thanks for this OT glimpse of God’s grace,
Jeremiah

Oh, & congratulations on your new blessing!

Kurt Strassner said...

Thanks Jeremiah!