The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, 2017
I Kings 3:5-12
Choices, Choices, Choices
At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So 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?” The LORD was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever noticed how many choices we make each and every day of our life? When we get up in the morning we choose what clothes we will wear and what we will eat for breakfast. If we leave for work or school we choose what we will bring or what we will do for lunch. During the course of the day we choose how we will treat other people. We also choose whether we will take the elevator or maybe get a little exercise and use the stairs. When we get home we choose what’s for dinner. At night we choose whether we will stay home and watch television or read a book or rent a movie or maybe go out with our friends. We make many choices each and every day!
Many times the choices that you and I make throughout the day are either neutral or harmless when it comes to our spiritual life. At other times the choices are not so simple. The choices we make often have consequences— some that directly impact our relationship with our Savior God. Unfortunately, there are times when we don’t even stop to consider how our choices and the consequences those choices bring with them will impact our spiritual life— until it is too late.
The sermon text that we have before us today gives us a very good example to follow as we strive to make the right choices— the God-pleasing choices— in our lives. This morning let’s study our text under the theme: Choices, Choices, Choices. First, let’s look at the choice that King Solomon made. Then let’s look at some of the choices we make. And finally, let’s look at the choices that our God has made.
Solomon was a young man— perhaps 20 years old— when his father David proclaimed him to be king. Although the Lord Himself had revealed that Solomon would be the next King of Israel Solomon’s succession to the throne of David did not come easily. Even before David had died Solomon’s older brother Adonijah boldly proclaimed himself to be king. When David found out about this he called in his most trusted advisors and had them openly proclaimed Solomon to be his rightful successor. When Adonijah heard about what his father had done he stepped back from his claim to be king— but he never let go of his desire to be king. After David had died Adonijah tried once again to become king— this time by deception (See I Kings 2:13-25). When Solomon learned of his brother’s deception and his rebellion Solomon had Adonijah put to death for his sinful and rebellious ways.
Once Solomon was firmly established as the Lord’s chosen king over the Lord’s chosen people an amazing event took place. The Lord came to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Think about it, my friends! God Himself had given to Solomon a “blank signed check”! Now for most people— perhaps even most of us here today— getting a “blank signed check” from God may not be a good thing. Our old sinful nature might get the best of us and we could ask God for something that is not good for us or not pleasing to Him. Solomon, however, quickly revealed what the Lord already knew about him. While Solomon could have asked for absolutely anything Solomon chose to ask God give to him a “discerning heart.” Very literally, what Solomon asked for was a “hearing heart.”
Now why would Solomon ask for a “discerning” or a “hearing” heart? I think there are two reasons behind Solomon’s choice. The first reason is found in verse six of our text. We hear Solomon say to the Lord, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.”
The Hebrew word that is translated here as “great kindness” denotes God’s free acts of generosity and salvation— acts that are completely undeserved by those who receive them. The New Testament equivalent for this is the word “grace.” In His grace God had handed Solomon this “blank signed check” and Solomon knew that his choice had to be made in that very same context— God’s “great kindness,” or, God’s “grace.” As the son of David and Bathsheba Solomon knew a lot about the depth of God’s grace, didn’t he. Solomon had learned from his father and mother what can happen when someone turns a deaf ear to God’s “great kindness.” Solomon had also learned from his father and mother how God’s “amazing grace” can lift up the repentant sinner and restore them to a right relationship with the Lord. I think this “great kindness,” this “amazing grace” was the primary basis for Solomon’s choice when he asked God for a “discerning” or a “hearing” heart.
At the same time Solomon was keenly aware of his own limitations. As king over God’s chosen people Solomon had now been given more responsibility than anyone else on the face of the earth. Solomon also knew that with responsibility comes accountability. Solomon therefore asks the Lord to give him a “discerning heart” so that he might “govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Solomon asked for what was most useful for his new station in life— the fact that he was now God’s chosen king over God’s chosen people.
When you stop to think about it, my friends, the example that Solomon gives to us here in our text would be very good for us to follow whenever we are making choices in our lives today. Why? Because Solomon’s choice was based upon two overriding principles. First and foremost, Solomon’s choice was based upon the ‘great kindness” that he had received from God. Secondly, Solomon’s choice was based upon his desire to serve God by serving others in the particular station in life that God had now given to him.
When we take those two overriding principles and examine them in the light of the two greatest commandments our Savior God has given to us (“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” Matthew 22:37-40) it becomes much easier for us as we make choices in our own personal lives, doesn’t it!
Like wise King Solomon we rejoice in the “great kindness,” in the “amazing grace” that our God has showered upon us and continues to shower upon us through our crucified and risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! That “great kindness,” that “amazing grace” leads us to ask ourselves each and every day, “How can I take my love for my Savior and openly reveal it in my life? What can I do to make sure that everyone is able to see that I do indeed love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind?” Permit me to give you a few suggestions. You can show your love for Jesus by prioritizing your life in such a way that worship, Bible study and prayer are regular parts of your daily and weekly schedule. You can show your love for Jesus by openly sharing your Savior with others— especially your own family. You can show your love for Jesus by cheerfully returning to the Lord a generous percentage of the material blessings He has given to you. You can show your love for Jesus by using the spiritual armor that God has so graciously provided to you to fight and defeat the temptations that the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh launch against you. When you lay your head down on your pillow at night you can show your love for Jesus by thanking the good Lord for the “great kindness” and the “amazing grace” He showered upon you that day, by asking for His forgiveness for all the times you have stumbled or fallen in your walk with your Lord and by asking Him to guide you and strengthen you so that if you wake up in the morning and find that you are still here on this earth, you will consciously look for ways to openly show your love and your thankfulness to Jesus for all that He has done for you! (Pointing to the cross)
At the same time, as you are making choices in your life you would do well to follow Solomon’s example and base your choices on your desire to serve God by serving others in whatever particular station in life God has given to you. Whether you are a husband or a wife, a parent or a child, a grandparent or a grandchild, whether you work in a bank or an office, in a factory or out in the fields you can base the choices that you make on Jesus’ great command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Think about how that will impact the way that you talk to other people, the way that you treat other people and even the way that you think about other people. Think about how that will motivate you to willingly help other people— without expecting anything in return. Think about how that will lead you to put other people and their needs over and above yourself and your own wants. Yes, my friends, combine Solomon’s principle of serving God by serving others in whatever station in life God has given to you with Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and you will see that many if not most of the choices you make in life become much easier to make!
Now I can’t speak for you, but as I look back on all of the choices that I have made in my life I can now see that by the grace of God I have made some very good choices. At the same time, when I look back on all the choices I have made in my life I can also see that by my own fault I have made some very bad choices. Some of the choices I made seemed good at the time, but in the end they turned out to be bad. The same thing probably holds true for many of you. Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and change all of our bad choices, can we. What then do we do with the guilt? What do we do with the shame? What do we do with the disappointment? Like wise King Solomon we turn to the “great kindness,” to the “amazing grace” of our God and we cling for dear life to the choices He has made!
In His “great kindness” the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth did not chose to destroy Adam and Eve when they sinned against Him, but rather He chose to provide this world with a Savior from sin. In His “amazing grace” God’s eternally begotten Son chose to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin so that He could come into our world as our true Brother and serve as our Savior from sin. In His “great kindness” our Brother Jesus chose to live an absolutely perfect life as our Substitute. In His “amazing grace” the true Son of God and the true Son of Man chose to die in our place to pay the penalty for our sins (Pointing to the cross) and then rise to life again to guarantee that we are justified, we have been “Declared: Not Guilty!” by the living God Himself! In His “great kindness” our Savior chose to tell us that He is now preparing a room for us in His heavenly Father’s mansion. In His “amazing grace” He chose to give us His solemn promise that He will come back and take us home to be with Him forever. In His “great kindness” the Triune God of heaven and earth chose to adopt us as His own dearly beloved children through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. In His “amazing grace” the living God chose to give us His true body and His true blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the double assurance that all of our sins are completely forgiven. The choices that our God has made, my friends, are choices that not only take away all the bad choices that we have made in the past, but they are choices that now give to us both the desire and the ability to consciously strive— with His help— make the right choices in the future.
Choices, choices, choices. When we are at our all-time favorite restaurant it is pretty safe to say that there are few if any bad choices. Unfortunately, we don’t live at our all-time favorite restaurant, do we. We live in the real world and the real life choices that you and I are called on to make are often times choices between right and wrong. They are choices between good and evil. Sometimes they are even choices between life and death. May the good Lord grant that whenever we are faced with one of these choices that like wise King Solomon we will make our choice in the light of God’s “amazing grace” and we will make our choice based on a desire to serve our God by serving others in whatever station in life God has given to us.
To God be the glory!