Genie in a Bottle

20170730 - 1HBS - LampSo give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?
(1 Kings 3:9)

Today’s passages:
Psalm 119:121-136
1 Kings 3:5-12
Romans 8:26-34
Matthew 13:31-49

You are walking along the beach and stumble across an antique lamp. As you rub it to try to dust off the sand, suddenly a genie appears and grants you a wish. It’s the kind of thing dreams … and jokes are made of.

Like the one where three ladies are stranded on a deserted island and find a bottle with a genie. Each is told they can have one wish, so the first wishes to go back home to her husband and family, whom they have not seen during the years they have been stranded. The second wishes for the same. The third woman, however, starts crying. “What is it?” asks the genie. “I just wish I had my friends back” she replies.

How do you think you would answer the question: If you could have anything in the world, what would you ask for?

Now, I’m not trying to imply that God is a genie—far from it—but when we read in 1 Kings 3 that God appears to Solomon and tells him he can ask for anything he desires, you get the sense that the sky’s the limit on what can be asked.

The fact that Solomon asks for wisdom (the NIV calls it a “discerning heart”) says something about him, doesn’t it. Again, I do not want to assume anything about what you might ask for, but I am fairly confident wisdom would not be on the top of my list.

If you read the passage carefully, you see that Solomon knows three things.

First, he recognizes how he got to the position he was in. There is no sense of how hard he worked to accomplish so many great things. He knows that it was “God’s kindness to my father David” that Solomon sits on the throne.

Not only does Solomon recognize his position, he also understands his standing in comparison to God and the task set before him. Whereas another man might have been tempted to assume that he was placed in his position because of the skills, talents, and abilities he possesses, Solomon knows that he is “just a child” faced with the task of performing duties far beyond his abilities.

Finally, Solomon knows the importance of his role because of the importance of the people he leads. Too many leaders turn that perspective upside-down and assume that the organization or nation or even church exists because of the greatness of the leader and those below him or her should be grateful for the leader’s benevolence.

“Who is able to govern this great people of yours?” Solomon asks. It indeed takes wisdom to understand the importance of God’s people and the need to ask for his guidance in those things that we do.

So I ask our original question again, altered for this context: If you had a chance to ask for one thing that you knew God would give you, what would you ask?

Questions:

•The Psalmist asks God to deal with him “according to your love” and then he goes on to say: “teach me your decrees.” How do you see the connection of the love of God and our understanding his decrees? In what ways would the love of God help us understand Scripture better?

•In what ways would a “discerning heart” help Solomon lead God’s people? In what ways would such a heart help you as you live a life of faith today? While God may not have come to you in a vision to ask you to request whatever you want, how often do you pray for discernment and wisdom?

•If God is for us, who can be against us?

•If you were going to describe the kingdom of heaven to your neighbor or perhaps someone at work, what words and images would you use to do so? How does your description compare to those of the passage we read in Matthew 13? What do you learn about the kingdom of heaven from these descriptions?

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