In 1 Kings 3:3, Solomon is described in the following positive terms: “In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.” 1 King 3:5. In response, Solomon answered, “And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” 1 Kings 3:7- 9
“And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.” 1 Kings 3:10. Here we see that God delights to give wisdom to those who truly seek it.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5, Proverbs 2:6–8. God responds to Solomon’s request for wisdom by promising three different gifts. The first is the wisdom Solomon had asked for: “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.” 1 Kings 3:12. In this regard no other person can aspire to the wisdom of Solomon as God limits the degree of the gift singularly to Solomon. “neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.”
1 Kings 4 records the details of Solomon’s wisdom: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:29-34
The second gift God gave Solomon was wealth and fame: “And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.” 1 Kings 3:13. Solomon would become known as the wealthiest king of his era. In the more modern period John D. Rockefeller was worth $336 Billion dollars, Solomon, by the same standard would have been worth over a Trillion dollars. No other individual person has ever been worth as much to date.
The third gift God gave Solomon was conditional—a long life based on Solomon’s obedience: “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.” 1 Kings 3:14
The first two gifts were unconditional. Solomon was known as a man of great wisdom (1 Kings 3:28) and as a king of great wealth and influence. But was Solomon known as an obedient king who experienced a long life? By the grace of God, Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42), a long period for one king to reign. However, Solomon’s obedience was mixed. He had many wives, including foreigners who influenced him to sacrifice to their gods. His great wealth also contributed to unwise excesses. Solomon began well, as his humble request for wisdom shows, but he later disobeyed God. Solomon was spared more severe punishment for the sake of his father, David (1 Kings 11:11–12).
Of all the gifts of Solomon, wisdom is the singular gift man can ascribe, but in a limited capacity unlike Solomon. The Bible urges us often to seek wisdom above all things (e.g., Proverbs 4:7). But there are different kinds of wisdom. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” 1 Corinthians 3:19–20
There is a difference between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom (James 3:13–17).
Godly wisdom is from God and honors God. Godly wisdom starts with the fear of God and results in a holy life. Worldly wisdom, on the other hand, is not concerned with honoring God but with pleasing oneself. With worldly wisdom, we may become educated, street-smart, and have “common sense” that enables us to play the world’s game successfully. Godly wisdom enables us to prepare ourselves for eternity. With godly wisdom, we trade earthly values for biblical values (1 John 2:15–16). Christians must recognize they are citizens of another kingdom and must make choices that reflect that allegiance (Philippians 1:27; 3:20). Having godly wisdom is to strive to see life from God’s perspective and act accordingly. This is not only achieveable, but necessary.
The book of Proverbs is part of the Bible known as wisdom literature. Proverbs is full of practical instructions for life. Many proverbs contrast the wise with the foolish and warn against repeating foolish actions (e.g., Proverbs 3:35; 14:24; 15:7; 26:11). Everyone makes mistakes, but the wise learn from their mistakes and take steps to avoid repeating them. The foolish may make the same mistake over and over again and never learn their lesson.
Godly wisdom may look very different from worldly wisdom. Jesus highlighted these differences in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7). For example: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:43-45
Godly wisdom often requires us to do that which is opposite our natural inclinations. Godly wisdom goes against the “conventional wisdom” of the day; it is not focused on self-preservation but on furthering the kingdom of God. We can only live in godly wisdom when we are committed to crucifying our flesh and living in the Spirit (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:16, 25).
The primary way we gain godly wisdom is by learning God’s Word (Psalm 119:169). “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Psalm 119:130. No one is born wise; we must acquire wisdom from God if we are to be truly wise: “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Psalm 119:98–100
The process of Immersion in God’s Word produces a heart of worship and thanksgiving. That heart of worship becomes fertile soil for seeds of wisdom to grow. From this, the process of gaining wisdom begins as the Holy Spirit brings things back to your remembrance and expands your understanding. The more you heed the wisdom given you, the more it grows within and closer your walk with the Lord becomes. Then you become less carnal and more Christ like which is the center of wisdom (John 17:17). God wants His followers to be set apart from the world, making godly choices and living godly lives (1 Peter 1:15). We can only do that when His Word lives in us.
We can also develop godly wisdom by carefully selecting those who journey through life with us: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20. Those who want godly wisdom will choose for their heroes those who exhibit wisdom in their personal lives.
“Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:3–6