Solomon loved the Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lord appeared again to Solomon in a dream.to life.
(Hugh Black, M. A.)
I. THE DUTY OF PRAYER. It is a fundamental law of our nature, on the mere supposition that there is a God in heaven, to ask His help. It is the plain, practical demonstration of our manifold obligations to God, of our own impotence, misery, and dependence; of Him as the source of all our hopes, and the one open, all-sufficient fountain of every blessing of peace and purity and power.
II. THE NATURE OF PRAYER.
1. It must be the utterance and the feeling of earnestness and fervour, under the sense of helplessness, misery, and sin, under the persuasion that if God help us not, there is no store whence shall man help us.
2. True supplication, to which God hath linked a blessing, is patient, abiding, persevering.
3. Confidence in God is an essential element in gracious and acceptable prayer. It does no honour to Him to adopt us into His family, that we should be unwilling on the one hand, or afraid on the other, to lay our wants, our wishes, nay our sins, freely before Him. As we have a new and living way into the Holiest, by the blood of Jesus, we may be sure that our entrance thither must be acceptable unto God.
III. THE BLESSINGS OF PRAYER. Answers shall be returned. When God said to Solomon, "Ask what I shall give thee," He never meant to mock the youthful monarch.s petition. The words of Truth Eternal are fully and for ever pledged. "Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Prayer, truly, fervently, and faithfully made, is like the bow of Jonathan, it never returns empty.
(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
Homilist.The passage before us is the record of a dream which this great man had one night at Gibeon, a place celebrated in the Old Testament but not mentioned in the New, and whose geographical position cannot be determined with any certainty now. There are two things very noteworthy in this dream.
1. The blending of the human and Divine. There is much that you can trace to Solomon's own mind in the nocturnal vision recorded here.(1) It seemed to be according to the measure of his capacity. He was a large-minded man, and the dream is on a large scale. There is nothing mean or small about it. Solomon's great soul took within the ample range of its imagination the whole Jewish nation, the Eternal Ruler of the universe, the righteous providence of Heaven, and the everlasting principles of moral obligation.(2) It seemed to be also according to the moral state of his mind. The dream is thoroughly religious. As the religious sentiment had flooded his nature in the day, it worked his imagination in the night. It is generally thus Our dreams grow out of the waking thoughts that have most impressed us.(3) It seemed to be, moreover, according to the strongest desire of his heart. He felt that to take the place of his father David, and direct the destinies of Israel, he required that wisdom which God alone could bestow. So far, we see the human in this dream; but the Divine is manifestly here too.
2. The suggested conditions of successful prayer. The prayer of his dream was answered in his actual history.
I. THAT EFFECTIVE PRAYER MUST BE DIVINELY AUTHORISED. At the beginning of the dream Solomon received an authority to pray. "And God said, Ask what I shall give thee." Such an authority is evidently a necessary condition Unless the Eternal gave us a warrant to address Him, our appeals would be impious and fruitless. Have we, the men of this age, a Divine authority for praying? If not, our appeals to Heaven are worse than idle breath. "Ask what I shall give thee."
1. This authority to call upon God in prayer agrees with our religious instincts. Prayer in some form or other is the natural cry of the soul the child in distress does not more naturally look to his fond parent for help, than the human soul in sore trouble and danger looks to the heavens for aid. Even men who in theory deny the existence of a God, urged by this instinct will cry to Him in danger.
2. This authority to call upon God in prayer is encouraging to our hope as sinners.
II. THAT EFFECTIVE PRAYER MUST BE EARNESTLY SPIRITUAL. By this we mean that spiritual interest must reign supreme, that spiritual motives must be predominant. It was so now with Solomon in his prayer.
III. THAT EFFECTIVE PRAYER MUST BE THOROUGHLY UNSELFISH. What he prayed for was "an understanding heart"; and he prayed for that, not that it might serve his own interest, but in order, as he says, "to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad."
I. EVERY REVELATION OF DIVINE GRACE IS DEFINITELY CONDITIONED UPON PRAYER AS THE INSTRUMENT OF ITS ATTAINMENT. Evidently God is purposing to do him a great favour; but all that the voice says is that he is to "ask" before anything is to be granted. God says "ask," and Jesus says "seek." Only we ought to remember that we in an age of blessedness and light, we in these latter times of clearer revelation, have one supreme advantage over those who sought their help under the teaching of that former dispensation; this is no longer a dream-voice that we hear from heaven, but the intelligible living message from the lips of God's Son.
II. REMINISCENCES OF PREVIOUS HELP ARE AN EXCELLENT ADVANTAGE IN PREPARATION FOR PRESENT PETITION. When we find so young a king referring to former histories in the household and the realm, it becomes clear that he kept his eyes open and his mind thoughtful while the story of Absalom and Mephibosheth in the old times was working itself out.
III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF REAL NEED IN CARRYING OUT THE LORD.S PURPOSES IS A FORCIBLE ARGUMENT FOR IMPORTUNITY IN SUPPLICATION.
IV. A WEIGHTY RESPONSIBILITY IN DUTIES CONSTITUTES A MOTIVE FOR ASKING GOD TO INTERPOSE WITH HIS BENEDICTION OF HELP. A burden of care is His reason for seeking audience with his King.
V. THE FIRST THING TO BE ASKED FOR IN GOD'S GRACE IS A NEW AND "UNDERSTANDING HEART." The idea here is a heart of discrimination, a power to discern conscientiously between right and wrong, and to pronounce unerringly for the right.
VI. HE WILL QUICKLY SUCCEED IN LIFE WHO HAS THE TESTIMONY THAT HE PLEASES GOD. From these words any one could predict the future of this young king; for the Lord announced Himself his friend.
VII. We may learn, once more, that A NEW HEART, WISE AND UNDERSTANDING, IS A BETTER BENEDICTION THAN ANY OTHER WHICH HUMAN WISHES COULD DESIRE.
VIII. WITH THIS CHIEF BLESSING OF A NEW HEART SOUGHT AND GAINED, GOD GRANTS EVERYTHING ELSE THAT IS NEEDED. Solomon took occasion a long time afterwards to put this thought in among his Proverbs.
IX. WITH PRESENT ANSWERS TO PRAYER ALWAYS COME ASSURANCES OF CONTINUED LOVE AND GRACE TO THE FAITHFUL FOR THE FUTURE. The great was right when once he exclaimed, " We must hold our empty vessel to the mouth of so large a fountain." And indeed, if God.s covenant engagements have so fine an indorsement that they will circulate as petitions, it would be well to use them literally and often. It was the lamented Humphrey who was said to have had the power of weaving together the Scripture promises so appropriately into his prayers that his exercises of devotion seemed like cloth of gold.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
I. GOD DOES COME TO EVERY ONE SAYING, "CHOOSE WHAT I SHALL GIVE THEE." Goethe said that he admired the man who knew precisely what he aimed at in life. God wishes you at the commencement of your career to come up to the height of a great choice. You have all read Carlyle's description of the Sphinx sitting by the wayside propounding her riddles to every one that passed; and if the passer-by answered correctly it was well for him, but if he did not answer the riddle he was destroyed on the spot. I have watched young men and others, and I say that life comes to every man in this world with its riddle, and if he answers it aright it is well with him, but if he tries to go on neglecting the commandments of the Giver of life; if he tries to go on living in his own way, and not in God's way, life to him will be a thing of loss, and he will become an object to be wept over. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." One of the latest discoveries I have read of is a spy-glass by means of which a man can see the sunken ships in all quiet seas. Oh that I could put a glass in the hand of every young man that would enable him to see the wrecks of the last twelve months in this great population! It would wring a prayer from your heart this minute — the very prayer of young Solomon, "Give me therefore an understanding heart, that I may discern between good and bad." It must begin with the heart. "The pure in heart alone can see God"; and if you cannot see God in the world, you cannot see anything else in its true proportions. There are only two kinds of companions, and if you play and dally with the wicked companions woe be to you. One rotten apple affects the whole store, one putrid grape will spoil the sound cluster, one sinner destroyeth much good. Why should you read a bad book? You will be sorry for it, perhaps, in twenty years, as Angell James was. If you read a corrupt book, a bad book, you will hang up a picture in your mind that you can never turn to the wall, that you can never pull down. And why should you do it, with all the noble literature that is about you? It was a splendid motto for you, that saying of John Foster, "This soul of mine shall rule this body of mine, or else quit it; I will not be here a tenant unless I am a master." We are placed here naked as the giant of fable to wrestle with the rude elements of the world, to conquer in the midst of its varied probation; but remember this, no devil nor devil's child can ever cast you down without your own consent.
II. If any one comes up to this choice, or chooses a right aim in life, it will be said of him, as it was here said of young Solomon, "AND THE SPEECH PLEASED THE LORD that Solomon had asked this thing." It was this thing in contrast to three other things that he had rejected. He rejected the false, and the false are here enumerated: "Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life." Then is that a wrong desire? Well, it is a nobler thing to act well your part than to be constantly thinking of living a long life. Religion is unquestionably favourable to length of days, but it is a very low aim of life to be constantly nursing yourself, and to be thinking of yourself. Life is not measured by length of days. Old Methuselah lived to 900 years, and never said a word worth putting down in the Bible. He lived for nine centuries and never did a single act worth reporting. He vegetated like a tree that was not living. Then it pleased the Lord, "Because thou didst neither ask riches for thyself." Then is it wrong for us to desire riches? As the great absorbing passion in life it is wrong. It pleased the Lord, "Neither hast thou asked the life of thine enemies." They say that it is the sweetest thing in life to have revenge upon an enemy. Another has said, "Revenge is mine, saith the Lord." And I thank heaven for that, or else public men would not live twelve months. Christianity is the only religion that teaches all men to give over their vengeance to the Lord. It is said that Leclair, the great critic, was one day going along the streets of Paris, and he trod on the foot of a young man; the young man at once raised his hand and struck him a blow in the face. Leclair turned round quietly, and said, "Sir, you will be sorry that you have done that, when you know that I am blind." He could have cut off his hand.
II. THE REASONS ARE HERE ASSIGNED WHY IT PLEASED THE LORD that Solomon rejected the false and chose the true aim in life.
1. Because he chose what enabled him to be serviceable to others. Our great poet has told us that Heaven does with us as we do with torches, not light them for themselves. We are lit in order to be the light of the world, and it can be said of every other life that "the game is not worth the candle."
2. Again, it pleased the Lord because he chose to walk in the statutes of a good father, and so to encourage him in his last days in his faith in God's covenant.
3. It pleased the Lord because he chose God Himself as his portion rather than all His gifts. "And Solomon loved the Lord." Young men, trust the Lord, there is honour in the Lord. He will give you more than you ask, abundantly more.
Homiletic Quarterly.I. THE HONOUR OF THIS PRECOCIOUS WISDOM IS PERHAPS DUE MORE TO DAVID THAN TO SOLOMON HIMSELF. His understanding, his feelings, his desires are what they are; in one word, he is what he is only because he has the inestimable privilege of succeeding much a father as King David. His dominant thought, from which spontaneously springs his prayer, is that of the immensity of his task and his incapacity to perform it. He feels his profound need of God's help. He learns to rely upon it. He has recourse to it with confidence. What a help to find in the memory of a father, as a second conscience accompanying us through life! Like the Polish King Boleslaus, who carried about with him the portrait of his father, and for whom it was enough, in cases of difficulty or peril, to cast a glance upon the revered image and say, "Boleslaus, thy father sees thee!" to recover his wisdom and courage about to forsake him.
II. A PROPER DISTRUST OF HIMSELF, VERY RARE AT HIS AGE AND IN HIS CIRCUMSTANCES (vers. 7-9). It was no trifling matter to be called upon to govern so important and unmanageable a nation as Israel. Generally speaking, men see the pleasures and privileges of power before they are made aware of its duties. An exalted position is always an object of envy and ambition. But at the age when one casts on life that long look of confidence and hope, which smooths down beforehand all its difficulties, and takes in only its bright and sunny aspects; at the age when one believes and hopes all things, how many others would have become intoxicated with pride and self-confidence!
III. HIS WISE APPRECIATION OF EARTHLY BLESSINGS. To this offer of the Almighty, "Ask what I shall give thee," who would not expect to hear a young man, scarcely yet seated on the throne, reply by demanding what men most desire on earth — a long and happy life, unlimited and undisputed power, a glorious reign, and unbounded wealth? Not so, however; Solomon begins life by wisely putting all these things in their proper place. There before us success, wealth, the open fountain of all earthly felicities, a choice to make from among the prizes which the world temptingly offers its elect. Who, having communed with himself, would say, "Lord, give me the wisdom and grace I need to accomplish faithfully Thy work here below! That is the limit of my desires; I would it were also the limit of Thy gifts"? I fancy I hear, bursting forth from the silence of your hearts some such prayers as these: "Lord, raise me above my fellow-men; give me, in the profession I have chosen, such facilities as will secure for me undisputed success; make me rise promptly to that fame which appears to me from afar as the sweetest of all enjoyments." That is a young man's prayer, no doubt. "Lord, give me all the outward advantages of beauty, grace, wit, all that gratifies vanity." That is, the prayer of a woman who perhaps does not think herself worldly-minded. "Lord, be pleased to increase by successful undertakings the patrimony I have received of my ancestors; assure me an exalted and wealthy station; grant that I may provide for my children such positions as will enable them to move in the highest circles of society." That is perhaps the inward request of a man of deep convictions, and well known in the field of Christian activity. I dare not proceed! God is wise not to lead us into temptation by permitting us, as he did Solomon, to pray for the satisfaction of our earthly desires.
(Alex. Whyte, D. D.)
1. The charm of it chiefly consists in its suitableness to the season of youth; in its correspondence to the character and dispositions which distinguish that important age; and which no length of acquaintance with the world prevents us from wishing to find in the young.(1) It is suited, in the first place, we think, to the opening of human life — to that interesting season, when nature in all its beauty first opens on the view, and when the wisdom and goodness of the Almighty fall on the heart, unmingled and unimpaired.(2) It is suited, in the next place, to the nature of youthful imagination; to that love of excellence and perfection which nothing mortal ever can realise, and which can find only in the truths of religion the objects of which it is in search.(3) It is suited still more, perhaps, to the tenderness of young affections; to that sensibility which every instance of goodness can move; and to that warm and generous temper which meets everywhere with the objects of its gratitude or love.(4) But, most of all, it is suited to the innocence of the youthful mind, to that sacred purity which can lift its unpolluted hands to Heaven; which guilt hath not yet torn from confidence and hope in God. The feelings of piety, however, are not only natural and becoming in youth; they are still more valuable, as tending to the formation of future character; as affording the best and noblest school in which the mind may be trained to whatever is great or good in human nature.
2. The piety which is formed in youth has a different character, and leads to very different effects. It comes not, then, to terrify or to alarm, but to afford every high and pleasing prospect in which the heart can indulge, — to withdraw the veil which covers the splendours of the eternal mind, — to open that futurity which awakens all their desires to behold, and, in the sublime occupations of which they feel already, as by some secret inspiration, the home and destiny of their souls. At such a period, religion is not a service of necessity, but of joy.(1) The first advantage of youthful piety is that it tends to establish that tone and character of thought which is allied to every virtuous purpose.(2) It is a second advantage of early piety, that it presents those views of man, and of the ends of his being, which call forth the best powers of our nature.(3) It is the last advantage of early piety, that it affords those views of the providence of God which can best give support and confidence to conduct.
(A. Allison, LL. B.)
Monday Club Sermons.I. EVERY NEW OPPORTUNITY DEMANDS A PECULIAR CHOICE. "Good" and "bad" are not changeable terms, yet in every new personal or public responsibility the sacred words seem to be spoken, "Ask what I shall give thee." As king, Solomon must make a new choice, differing from any he had hitherto made. In civil life this law everywhere obtains. The responsibilities of the judiciary differ widely from those of the executive, and these in turn from the legislative. The same question comes to each; but each case must call forth a peculiar answer. So, likewise, consider the different factors of society. No two persons can make the same reply. Each day's duties differ from all that have preceded, hence every day we must give answer to Him who speaks. The importance of our choice is emphasised by our power for good or evil.
II. EVERY CHOICE INVOLVES CHARACTER. We are known by what we choose. A defective choice means a defective character. The choice of Solomon was good as far as it went; but it had relation merely to his kingly work, and only incidentally to himself. In some respects Israel's wisest king was the saddest of all scriptural characters. Notwithstanding his visions from God, his history is largely secular. At the beginning of the Homeric age in Greece, this greater than Homer made Palestine the centre of art and the treasury of wisdom. The mines of the known earth were delved for their riches to adorn the Temple, to whose beauty every forest contributed. He symbolised in these visible splendours the invisible God, only at last to become a worshipper of idols. The incense that floated in the clouds from the Temple in Jerusalem was mingled over Olivet with that from the altars of Phenicia and Moab, and above all with that of Moloch — the altar of human sacrifices — and all under his reign. His dream depicts him as praying for right dealings towards and among the people; and yet his later years inflicted an unbearable tyranny on that same people.
III. THE HIGHEST CHOICE IS WISDOM. His choice marked a new epoch. Before his time all kingly power was marked by standing armies, by riches and pomp. Each ruler was thought to need a long life to ensure the success of his plans; but here was a strange request. Under his reign was demonstrated for the first time the power of the brain in the conquests of nations and men. His was the golden age of Jewish literature, himself the founder. If intellectual power could save an empire, the trial was being made, but worms were eating at the roots. All nations owned his intellectual greatness — wiser than their wisest men. Phenicia, proud mother of letters, was dumb in his presence. Tyre spread her purple over his throne. India minted him her gold. We speak of our Linnaeus; but Solomon, the first great botanist, "spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon to the moss that springs out of the wall." We boast of our Cuvier; yet Israel's wise king, the first great naturalist, spake "of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes." Upon his wise words Aristotle based all that was best of Grecian philosophy. The Wordsworth of Jewish poets, he laid all nature at our feet. Wisdom, however, means more than knowledge. Many a learned man is not wise. Knowledge is the apprehension of facts or relations; wisdom denotes "the use of the best means for attaining the best ends." Wisdom is never shown in choosing what is always to remain exterior to self.
IV. THE HIGHEST WISDOM IS EVIDENCED IN MOST COMMON THUGS. The wisest men use the simplest speech. The smallest children speak largest words. Simplicity of construction is the secret of the best invention. God's mightiest forces are uncomplicated. The rattling shuttles of a mill are a wonder; but more wonderful still that noiseless, shuttleless weaving of the lily, whose fashioning none of us has ever seen. There is no book so full of thoughts for practical everyday life as the Book of Proverbs, yet that very simplicity is Divine.
V. UNSOUGHT BLESSINGS ARE GIVEN THE TRULY WISE.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
I. GOD REGARDS WITH SPECIAL FAVOUR THOSE WHO HONOUR HIM. It is idle to speculate as to whether Solomon would not have received the same blessings if he had not sacrificed and prayed. The fact was, that sacrifice and prayer were the immediate antecedents of the blessings, and are represented as having direct relation to them. Such a fact is sufficient answer to all philosophical objections to prayer, and an emphatic rebuke to those who say it is nonsense to insist that God has any pleasure in our worship and formal expressions of homage.
II. WITH PROPER REGARD TO GOD'S WILL WE MAY PRAY FOR SPECIAL BLESSINGS. It was not presumption for Solomon to take God at His word. It would have been unpardonable unbelief had he replied to His offer of good that he could not presume to make mention of what was uppermost in his heart. God never trifles. His offers are never to be regarded as only general evidence of a willingness to do us good, but as real invitations that we make known our requests. There is proof enough that our Father is pleased to gratify the wishes of His children, and it is no pleasure to Him that they pray only in vague and indefinite generalities. The very idea of the relationship forbids such prayer; the idea of prayer itself is opposed to such expressions of desire.
III. WE MAY MAKE THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS A PLEA FOR GOOD TO BE GRANTED TO OURSELVES. Solomon made mention of David's life and reign as having been pleasing to God, and of God's great mercy to him, and urged this as proof that a purpose to. be upright may become a ground of hope since He who does not change will grant favour always when the required conditions are fulfilled. The faithfulness of God is the real stimulus to prayer.
IV. BLESSINGS INCOMPLETE IN THEIR NATURE MAY BE PRESSED AS AN ARGUMENT IN PRAYER FOR THEIR COMPLETION. In David's dying charge to his son he reminded him of God's declaration to himself: "If thy children take heed," etc. Solomon made this declaration the basis of his plea with God in this interview. A large part of Christian work is in progress, the execution of plans which require time and persistent toil. We need not fear lest God will weary of co-operation in such work.
V. CONSCIOUSNESS, AND EVEN CONFESSION OF INABILITY TO PERFORM DUTY MAY BECOME A FURTHER WARRANT FOR HELP FROM GOD WHEN THE DUTY IS CLEARLY ASSIGNED BY HIM. The same conviction oppresses many a Christian whom God has called to do work in the different departments of His service. This should not cause him to faint or despair or retire, but should rouse him to greater confidence in prayer while he resolves to stand in the place assigned him.
VI. GOD DOES NOT CONTENT HIMSELF WITH GRANTING SIMPLY WHAT WE ASK WHEN WE HAVE THE SPIRIT HE APPROVES. His answer to Solomon's prayer was: "Behold, I have done according to thy words."
VII. THANKSGIVING FOR ANSWER TO PRAYER SHOULD BE PROMINENT AND IN THE MOST POSITIVE FORM OF EXPRESSION.
(J. Eells, D. D.)
Once, to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God.s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand and the sheep upon the right
And the choice goes by for ever .twixt that darkness and that light.
And not once only, but many times does such choice come. For to live is to choose. Life is but a series of choices. Though just as the current of the river, notwithstanding refluent ripples, carries with it in one main direction the multitudinous drops of water which go to make the river, so in life one main and dominating choice gives impulse and direction to the ten thousand lesser choices with which the days are filled. I am appalled at this power of choice. I do not think any one in the least thoughtful can help being. I was looking through the glass sides of a beehive. All was orderly and unclashing; none of the pain and disturbance of errant and rebellious wills; each bee doing just as each bee should, just the thing each was designed to do. And I asked myself, Why did not God make men thus? Why did God put men among the crowding dangers of the retributive results of their bad choices? There are only two answers to such questions: God has not made men thus; if God had made men thus men would not be men. No; real and shadowing is the fact of choice. Our Scripture tells the story of a right choice.
I. WHAT SUCH RIGHT CHOICE INVOLVES.
1. Purpose of inward worth. Solomon prayed that he might have an "understanding heart." He wanted the real gold, not tinsel. That is a great and constant trouble, that men are so willing to seem to be rather than to be. Here is the precise reason for the defalcations which too often and so sadly startle the community.
2. Such true choice involves recognition of duty. Duty is the child of relation; is that which is due because of the relations in which one is set Godward, manward. The true choice involves recognition of the duties springing out of the relations in which one is bound.
3. Such true choice involves determination to practise along the line of duty; "that I may judge this people." As long as Solomon did this, how great and wise! But when he practised otherwise, how sad his fall l
4. Such true choice involves dependence on God. "Give, therefore, Thy servant an understanding heart." Solomon felt himself insufficient. He must have and hang on God.
II. IN WHAT SUCH RIGHT CHOICE RESULTS.
1. In pleasing God (ver. 10).
2. In Divine ratification (ver. 12).
3. In external prosperity (ver. 13).
4. In internal prosperity. Solomon, conscious of pleasing God, must have had peace and joy.
1. The address which God made to Solomon, when He said, "Ask what I shall give thee," He does in effect make to each of us, especially to the young. By erecting a throne of grace in heaven, opening the way to it, inviting us to come to Him with our requests, and promising to grant our petitions when they are agreeable to His will, He does in effect say to each of us, "Ask what I shall give thee."
2. Though we are not, like Solomon, kings; and therefore need not, as he did, qualifications requisite for that office; yet we all need spiritual wisdom and understanding, and may therefore all imitate his example in making our choice. Every parent, also, has reason to adopt the prayer of Solomon. Pro. lessors of religion have reason to imitate the example of Solomon.
3. That God is pleased with those who make the choice and sincerely offer up the prayer of Solomon.(1) Because it is the effect of His grace. We are told that the Lord rejoices in His works, and with reason does Be rejoice in them; for they are all very good. If He rejoices in them, He must, of course, be pleased with them. But to induce persons to make the choice and offer up the prayer of Solomon, is always His work, the effect of His grace.(2) He is pleased with it, because it indicates opinions and feelings similar to His own. In the opinion of Jehovah, spiritual wisdom, that wisdom of which the fear of God is the beginning, is the principal thing, the one thing needful, to creatures such as we are. Now those who make the choice which Solomon made, estimate objects according to their real value; that is, according to their value in the estimation of God. Their opinions and feelings in this respect correspond with His; and since all beings are necessarily pleased with those who resemble them, God cannot but be pleased with those who resemble Him in this respect.(3) God is pleased with those who thus pray for a wise and understanding heart, because such prayers are indicative of humility.(4) God is pleased with such characters, because their conduct evinces that they are actuated by a benevolent concern for His glory, and for the happiness of their fellow-creatures.(5) God is pleased with those who imitate the examples of Solomon, because it actually and greatly tends to promote His glory.
4. All who make his choice, and adopt his prayer, shall certainly be favoured with a wise and understanding heart. That God will gratify the desires of those who thus pray for wisdom, is evident from His express promises. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth liberally to all men and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
(E. Payson, D. D.)
1. Solomon prayed for an understanding heart, to discern good from evil, because he felt the responsibility of his position. He knew that without God's guiding Spirit he could not rule so great a people. If we do not feel the same need of an understanding heart, may it not be because we refuse to look our responsibilities in the face? If for nothing else, we are all responsible to God for the management of the life He has given us. Then there are always other lives that depend upon us, more or lees. Poor Margaret Fuller, recording in her diary the birth of her child, expressed a feeling of responsibility with which many parents can sympathise: "I am the mother of an immortal being? God be merciful to me a sinner!" But what exactly is this understanding heart for which Solomon prayed? It is that wonderful thing which is so much spoken of in the Bible under the name of Wisdom. It is goodness or the fear of the Lord, the opposite of godless wickedness, which is "folly."
2. Again, those who ask for and receive God's Holy Spirit get also the highest kind of riches. They are content, and he who is most contented is the richest of men. Perhaps it may be said that nearly all people do desire an under. standing heart, and that they need not be urged to make the choice. Yes, they desire it; but they cannot be said to choose it. They desire to be educated; but there are myriads of desires that never ripen into a choice, as there are a million blossoms and comparatively few apples. When those who desired to be educated saw that a choice would involve self-denial and drudgery, they preferred to put it off till to-morrow, or next week, or next year, and to take the consequences. A young man desires to be rich; but as soon as he finds that gaining wealth requires self-denial, painstaking, industry, and integrity, he does not choose riches. He chooses self-indulgence; he chooses pleasures. Men desire to have an honourable character and the happiness that comes from well-doing. They desire it; but whether they choose it or not, we can only tell when we sea how they act. In the same way many persons desire to obey Christ, and hope that one day they shall do so. But do they choose to have in them the mind of Christ or an understanding heart to discern between good and evil? It is easy to desire, it is difficult to choose, and this is the explanation of the religious sentiment which produces little or no result in life. (E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)
I have given thee a wise and understanding heart
Homilist.I. THAT FIRST STEPS IN KNOWLEDGE AND IN HOLINESS MUST BE TAKEN BY OURSELVES. Solomon gave his heart to seek and search out all things under heaven. When a choice of gifts was afterwards placed in his power by God, he had acquired intelligence enough by his previous industry to be enabled to choose aright, and to select wisdom. Like the youth told of in American story, we must fix our eyes upward, and scale the scarped rock slowly by cutting clefts for our hands and feet in its steep side, each foothold that we cut helping us to reach onward to cut another. To gain some knowledge helps us to acquire more; to learn to distinguish between the jewel truth and all the worthless spangles of falsehood, enables us to discern that "pearl of great price" which sooner or later God offers to every man.
II. THAT IF WE SEEK THE HIGHEST GOOD, GOD WILL IN HIS BOUNTY GIVE US, AS OUR NEED MAY REQUIRE, LESSER BLESSINGS ALSO.
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.).
I will lengthen thy days.
(D. L. Moody.)
Then came there two women.I. THAT SIN PRODUCES SUFFERING. The two women who came for judgment to Solomon were harlots; and the offsprings of their impurity were the means by which they were afflicted. The sin of unchastity is one of the most grievous of offences, because it is the one whose results are the most debasing and the most far-reaching. Of this sin, as of all others, it is eternally true, that the wages of sin is death.
II. THAT IN THE MOST DEGRADED NATURES SOME NOBLE TRAIT REMAINS. Some relic of a vanished Eden lingers in the worst of us, although the slime of the serpent may be over it still. These women, though sinners, loved their children. There is hope then for the worst of offenders, inasmuch as in every human soul there are dormant spiritual symphonies, which, when the dark night of sin is over, shall, at the dawning of a brighter day, be wakened by the touch of sympathy, like Memnon's statue, into music and into life.
III. THAT WHERE THE IGNORANT CAN SEE ONLY CRUELTY AND DISORDER, THE WISE AND FAITHFUL CAN RECOGNISE BENEFICENCE AND ORDER. The king, calling for a sword, ordered the living child to be divided. A cruel decree, superficial thinkers would say; but it was only a test after all, devised by true wisdom, in order the more readily to reveal the true mother. When men are so hasty in impugning the action of the Deity, and in imputing cruelty or unconcern to God at any period of public or private calamity, it would be well for them to bethink them of their own ignorance. So to us, who see but here in part through a glass darkly, the operations of God in grace and in nature must present many difficulties and apparent anomalies.
IV. THAT NOT BY OUTWARD PROFESSIONS, BUT BY THE SENTIMENTS OF THE HEART, MUST EACH OF US BE JUDGED. Both these women professed equally to love the living child; but it was seen speedily in the hour of trial as to which of the two had real feelings of maternal affection in her heart. It is what we are, and not what we have pretended to be, that will avail us "in the hour of death and in the day of judgment."
V. THAT OFTEN, WHEN GOD GIVES TO US A LIVING TALENT, AS A LIVING CHILD WAS GIVEN TO EACH OF THESE WOMEN, WE, LAZILY SLUMBERING AWAY OUR TIME, FAIL TO BE THANKFUL FOR IT, OR TO UTILISE IT AS WE OUGHT. By negligence on our own part, — as in the case of the woman who overlaid her child, — or by the craftiness of other agencies, be it those of world, flesh, or devil, taking advantage of our own supineness, — as in the case of the woman whose child was stolen while she slept, — we lose our gift from God, our living grace, and find, when we awake from our slumbers, only a dead image of a departed spiritual beauty, which no shedding of our heart's best blood can again quicken into life.
(R. Young, M. A.)
1. And this is the first instinct on which the relationship reposes. Instinct is a shorter and surer way to right conclusion than reason. It reaches it by a passionate leap, rather than by a patient process. Inference, sequence, deduction, calculation, hypothesis; these are the cumbersome machinery of what calls itself philosophy; and they almost always lead to a separate result in each separate mind which uses them, when they lead to any result at all; so that the only certain issue of their use is confusion worse confounded. With instinct it is all postulate, and all that complicates the logic of love, or encumbers the swift process of its flight, must be conceded, or it will be taken for granted. With the love that springs out of any relationship this will be more or less the rule; but with maternal love it is pre-eminently so.
2. If the mother-instinct pervaded all humanity, there would be no intricate question created out of the vivisection stir, on which science, "falsely so called," is condescending to dispute. It would be taken for granted that it was base and brutal; and that higher reason, to whose platform instinct often vaults by its own innate buoyancy, would declare that true science has resources too vast to be compelled to criminality to reach discovery; that the intelligence that would grope its way through cruelty to daylight misses its path, and takes a false name; and that men who pretend to find instruction in the infliction of agony on what is dumb and defenceless, instead of being a little lower than the angels, are a great deal lower than the beasts they butcher. But if the very principle of motherhood is instinctive and unreasoning, its developments are not unfrequently capricious and unreasonable. Maternal love is often diluted by maternal cares. Necessities increase with each renewal of the relationship; but the means of meeting them too often diminish. The natural selection of the mother's heart is towards the weakest and most helpless; and the survival of the fittest in the breast which is maternal, is asserted by feebleness rather than by strength. The mother loves that best to which she can give most.
3. It comes within the mother's province to lead the child into the fragrant orbit of religious influence, and to guide its feet when young amidst those scenes which shall colour its whole life, giving ballast to its youth, strength to its prime, and light at eventide to illumine its old age. Then if you would not burlesque that religion and repel the child, gild it with the sunshine with which its Author fills it. Let it be a garden of flowers, not an Egyptian brickfield of toil. The patience and the ingenuity of motherhood are boundless, and in no sweeter mission can they be embarked than in leading the children to the Saviour. Show them His sweet example. The wisest and the truest mothers axe the Hannahs who give their children to the Lord.
(E. Thompson, D. D.)
(E. Thompson, D. D.).