On Paying Attention

“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 Kings 3:12

Sometimes we don’t realize what we have until we lose it. Sometimes it’s a loved one. Sometimes it’s time. Sometimes it’s something we didn’t even know we had. Sometimes it’s exactly what we asked for but over time we failed to recognize its blessing and exchanged it for something no one would ever ask for.

Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave it to him. In fact, God was pleased with Solomon’s request because Solomon was given the chance to ask for long life, for extensive riches, for the lives of his enemies. Instead of enjoying these pleasures, Solomon asked for “an understanding mind to govern” God’s people and the ability to discern between good and evil. The word of Solomon’s wisdom traveled as an open invitation to dignitaries to come challenge him with hard questions, and each of these world leaders left Solomon’s glorious palace in awe of this man’s wisdom. If strength was in personal influence, Solomon splendidly displayed his God-given ability when he reunited a prostitute mother with her son.

Solomon understood vanity, life, a good name, and most of all, the faithfulness and holiness of God. He dedicated his kingdom, the temple, and his people to the Lord, recognizing that one day, as had been done on multiple occasions, Israel would grow unfaithful to this faithful God. He prayed,

“When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to you and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them against to the land that you gave to their fathers.”

And God answered him with the promise in II Chronicles 7:14—the promise to heal the land if God’s people would humble themselves, pray, seek the face of the Lord, and turn from their wicked ways.

We miss those things dearest to us when they’re taken away because we don’t always value what we have now. In the end, Solomon himself—that man whom Scripture tells us “loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father”—turned away from the God who had given him wisdom beyond what any other man would know. The man who once said that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” ultimately took 700 wives for himself and made pagan sacrifices in the high places. Solomon, who reverenced the faithfulness of God, was ultimately unfaithful.

If Solomon represents the best of us in wisdom, then we can’t expect ourselves to be any more faithful than he was.

It’s amazing, then, when Paul reminds us that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” That is the faithfulness of God. We will always find ourselves chasing the things that will not last, the memories of yesterday, the riches we exchanged for rags. But there is one thing that we can never lose—or that will never lose us—the grace of Christ. When we think we have chased it away and we find ourselves with empty hands, the grace of Christ comes to wash our feet once again. Even when Solomon’s request faded away and the wise king turned his back, the Lord still stood there with His own promise. This truly is Immanuel, our God with us.

Doug Serven