Asking God for a discerning heart

1 Kings 3:6-14

And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude.  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?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,  behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Solomon demonstrates  an awareness of God’s mercy and faithfulness—“you have shown great and steadfast love to your servant”—and displays  humility—“I am but a little child”— Solomon asks only that God would give him a “discerning heart” or “an understanding mind” in order to effectively lead the people of Israel (v. 9). The Hebrew concept of a discerning or listening “heart”—which was considered to be the mind and will for the Hebrews—communicated the idea that genuine hearing is demonstrated by the act of obedience. A person truly  “heard” a command when he had actually obeyed that command. So Solomon here is praying for the ability to both clearly hear and understand God’s command and to also faithfully obey it. He desired to govern his people (“too numerous to count or number”) with integrity and fairness—“to distinguish between right and wrong” (vv. 8-9).

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