How many of you have ever tried building a pyramid upside down? … with the point in the sand and the wide-base up in the sky? Have you tried that? How many of you actually succeeded in making that kind of pyramid stand? …anyone? …no one? Didn’t think so.
The same can said when you are building your life. You constantly face this longing to improve life and make it more pleasant. You encounter questions like: How can I be a better parent? … grandparent? How can I be a happier individual? How can I be more forgiving? How can I be a better steward of my wealth? In reality, you are searching for wisdom. You are searching for guidance so that you can avoid unpleasant pitfalls and frustrations, failure and disappointment. The problem is, so many times we start by looking for wisdom in the wrong place, and when we start at the wrong place, we end up with an answer that falls apart.
So, God brings you (and me) to the very heart and foundation of true wisdom. He urges you: Humbly Recognize Life’s Truest Treasure, by starting at the Source of wisdom and by discerning true joy in God’s blessings.
And what better place to start than by looking at the life of the wisest man the world has ever known? Our reading tells us (1) how Solomon receives his incredible wisdom and (2) how that wisdom is displayed.
Now (just for a little bit of background), Solomon is the third king ancient Israel ever had. Israel’s first king is King Saul and when he dies, his family tree leaves the throne. A new dynasty rises, and its king is King David (an ancestor to Jesus). Eventually David dies and his son Solomon ascends the throne.
So at the time of our reading, Solomon’s just a few years into his reign. You read that the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream. Stop and think about that for a moment. How do you picture young Solomon? Can you imagine what his palace looks like? …how his subjects treat him … what advice his advisers give? Do you envision Solomon as stressed out? …nervous? …a little timid?
Solomon was probably in a good position to start ruling right where his father left off. The royal treasury holds over a centuries’ worth of tax revenue. His father was king, and if people respected David, then they would already respect him. His army marches at his order to any place, any time, for any cause. Solomon would seem to have everything necessary for a successful reign. Money, authority, military. So, it may sound out of place for God to say: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
What could Solomon ask for? “God, I’m king. So, my word stands. I have money; I can buy my way out of problems. I have respect, so people will listen to me. No thanks. I’ve got my kingdom under control.” That’s what you might expect to hear, but he doesn’t say that, does he? Instead he answers: [G]ive your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.
Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children want him to lead the nation. An economy needs his assistance for trade and income. Military must know whether to attack or defend. Solomon recognizes that he will need guidance, but he cannot rely on his own personal decision-making. He humbly admits this. He Humbly Recognizes Life’s Truest Treasure by starting at the Source of wisdom. He turns to God and following his Word.
That humility is not natural. That is not something we are born with. The Bible says our sinful nature is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so (Romans 8:7). The sinful nature inside of us treasures our word more than God’s Word.
It means, you will be constantly tempted to follow the guidance of whatever your heart feels is good and right. When God says: “Set aside in your heart an offering to give me,” (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7), the heart shouts: “No! That’s mine! I don’t want to give you anything! You’re not worth my money!” When Jesus says, “Forgive, each other as I have forgiven you” (Matthew 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32) our heart screeches: “No! She hurt me! I’m not going to forgive until she hurts more than me!” When God says: “Trust me. Even as the world’s morality rapidly decays, I am with you always” (John 16:33), our heart cries: “No! I don’t believe that! There are more people who do not believe what I believe. Life’s not pleasant! I need to take over, God!”
That sinful heart arrogantly claims your word is more valuable than God’s Word. That your thoughts are more important than the thoughts of God. The way you act must line up with how you feel, instead of what God calls “right.” Simply put, that sinful heart wants to rely on your decisions and to your decisions alone. And if God will not lead you to what you heart demands, then your heart will look for joy outside of God. If you look for lasting happiness anywhere else, you will only find eternal misery.
Humbly Recognize Life’s Truest Treasure. It does take humility. It takes humility to put someone else’s word ahead of your own word. It takes humility to follow someone else’s guidance even when it means you are not in control. It takes humility to find priceless value in the wisdom God gives you.
Solomon could not help but approach God in humility. After God asks Solomon to request anything, Solomon replies: “[God], you have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart… you kept your promise and [gave] him a son to sit on his throne.” Solomon does not brag about how his military cleverness won the throne. He does not thump his chest, boasting how his intelligence will govern the nation. It’s quite the opposite. Solomon humbly admits: The only reason he reigns is because God put him on the throne.
The only reason you can stand before God today is because he gave you the most priceless treasure of all: his Son.
For thirty-three years, the devil tries to persuade Jesus in finding value in the treasures of the world. He begs Jesus to challenge God’s promises. “Hey Jesus, look, you’re hungry. You’re a smart guy. You’re pretty powerful. Why don’t you make bread since it doesn’t look like your Father’s going to feed you today?” (Matthew 4:1-3) He pleads with Jesus to place his desires ahead of God’s wants. “Jesus. Hop off of the temple. Just do it. You know the Bible—and in the Bible your Father promises to protect you. You’re wise enough to know that” (Matthew 4:5-6). He even urges Jesus to find real joy in what the world offers. “Hey, Jesus. Look at all these kingdoms and their thrones and their banks filled with gold and their armies and their people—and see? See, look, they can all be yours. Just worship me and then you’ll be rich” (Matthew 4:8-9). Jesus is tempted just like you are—to follow your decisions and find real happiness in this fading world. And Jesus— he finds true wisdom in knowing the kingdom of heaven is his real home—and not just his home, but a home created just for you.
He Recognizes Life’s Truest Treasure by starting at the Source of wisdom: The Word of God. Every time the devil tempts him, Jesus points back to the Word and says: “This brings real life” (Matthew 4:10). As he starts walking up Mount Calvary, he prays: “God, if it is your will, spare this pain, but let it be your will” (Matthew 26:36-46). God’s Word proves to be packed with wisdom as Jesus follows it to death for you.
He sheds his innocent blood to unlock the gates of heaven. He hands over his life so that you can wear his perfection. He enters heaven in your sight so that you can know for sure: heaven holds your real inheritance!
This truth does not come naturally. You must learn it. You must hear it. So, Jesus gives you his Word, the Bible. My friends, Humbly Recognize Life’s Truest Treasure, by starting at the Source of wisdom and then, you will discern true joy in God’s blessings.
That’s what Solomon finds. He starts at the foundation of all the decisions that needed to be made in life. He did not construct an upside-down-pyramid. He did not start building a house roof-first. He asks God for the wisdom to start with the Word of God first, and then make a decision.
God gave him a wise and discerning heart. “To discern” means to “pay attention to” or “listen with interest.” Solomon understood his real joy would not be found in money because you can never have enough money and because money always leaves you. He knows real joy is not found in long life because life ends and then you meet your Maker. He knows real joy is not found in the death of his enemies because that does not prevent danger forever. True joy is found in a life lived with God.
When God is at the head of your heart, everything else falls into line. Do you wish to be a more trusting person? Where do you look to start the change? Well, do you notice where many look for comfort? Politicians. The media. The military. Group A protests that Group B lay aside their strongly-held-belief and embrace Group A’s strongly-held-belief. Yes, politicians and military are beneficial and necessary, but they are not the source of your joy. Neither will they fill your heart with gladness. They will fail you and let you down because they are sinners like you and me— imperfect and frustrating. True joy comes from knowing that whatever the future holds, God holds you tight forever.
You may worry how long you will wait for a new Pastor (or if you receive a new Pastor). I cannot peer into the future and bring back an answer. I will tell you this: God has put his Word in your life. Your former Pastor did not retire and take all whispers of the Word with him. God has not closed down your building so that you can no longer hear the Word interpreted correctly and Jesus proclaimed clearly. You still have these things! Even if your surroundings change, you still possess the peace which comes from having eternal life.
How do you become a better parent and grandparent? Not by looking at outward things to change about yourself. Like trying to become more patient or more caring or more flexible. Start at the Source. See how God has been a perfect Father to you. See his unconditional love poured out in your life and imitate it! When you Humbly Recognize Life’s Truest Treasure as the Word of God, you will discern true joy in God’s blessings.
Solomon didn’t have all the answers as king—but he knew where to turn. The Word of God gave him guidance and wisdom for much of his life.
You may search for guidance so that you can avoid unpleasant pitfalls and frustrations, failure and disappointment. Problems come when we start looking for wisdom in the wrong place.
So, God starts you at the Source of wisdom: The Word of God. As you grow in the Word, you begin discerning true joy in God’s blessings. Then you Humbly Recognize Life’s Truest Treasure.