1 Kings 3:5-12
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ 6 And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
31 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ 33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[d] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ …………..
44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52 And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’
Prayer: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
It is amazing that these bible passages, of different genres, written nearly 600 years apart, have an indisputable coherence. And what they each point to collectively is all that God makes available to every one of us in our daily life. I wonder whether your daily life in the last four months has been a mixture of ups and downs. For some, no doubt, the pendulum will have been fixed at ‘down’ but I have met others on my walks around Olney who have discovered real positives in Lockdown. Whatever your experiences this year, all of us at different times need
- wisdom for the present and the future
- To be inspired and enabled to pray
- To be able to trust God for ourselves
- To trust God for His Kingdom to come
So let me comment on each of these four thoughts:
Firstly, all of us need help to have wisdom for the present and the future:
Solomon had already shown that he had a measure of wisdom by the way that he had treated the people who had been a threat to him. But our reading today highlights that he knew that he still lacked a truly “wise and discerning mind”. The new gift of wisdom that he subsequently received was everything that he needed from God to enable him to govern God’s people more justly.
From First Kings we learn that Solomon (ill-advisedly) entered into a marriage alliance with Pharaoh. God had decreed that His people should not marry foreigners, but Solomon ignored this. Solomon undoubtedly loved God, but such a marriage led him to later on to be a king with a divided heart and he went on to fail to keep the Law of Moses wholeheartedly. In fact, Solomon began by tolerating the worship of His Lord at places that God had forbidden. This eventually ended up with him being drawn into full-blown apostasy.
Solomon however did get many things right including asking God for wisdom to govern God’s people. He did not ask for long life or riches or the death of his enemies, but he asked for wisdom. God graciously gave Solomon wisdom, but incredibly He also gave Solomon things that he hadn’t asked for. As well as wisdom God gave Solomon both riches and honour, and He promised to lengthen his days.
When God gave Solomon a wise and discerning mind He gave it to him as a supernatural gift; he didn’t have to acquire it over the years with patient hard work, with careful observation or with dedicated self-discipline, God gave it to him as an unmerited gift. We are told that because of this godly wisdom Solomon was unparalleled in Israelite history and it was said of him, “none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you”.
We all need wisdom at so many times and in so many ways and God will always give us what we need. It may be by supernatural revelation, through a wise friend, through the Bible or through life-lessons that we have learned. However we receive God’s wisdom we can trust that God will lead us, guide us and give us the wisdom we need.
Secondly, all of us at times need help to pray:
Sometimes we just don’t know what to say to God. Perhaps that has been your experience in Lockdown. For some, time has been in shorter supply as work, family commitments and home-schooling have become more demanding and you’ve barely managed to squeeze in time to pray. For others time has lingered, stretched endlessly ahead like a grey cloud and the impetus to pray has been lost in the dullness of day to day existence. And for a number of you, you are grieving. This season has brought loss of loved ones and maybe you are numb or angry or you feel without hope.
There are times when we just aren’t able to express our emotions, desires or hopes. We can’t see the wood from the trees and we don’t know where to start with our prayers. When we need help to pray we can learn from those around us, from how others in the Bible prayed, from the biographies of Christians and we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us. The Holy Spirit is always willing to help us to pray, to inspire us to say the right words at the right time or when things are just all too much for us He will pray for us on our behalf. Our reading from Romans teaches us that when we don’t know what to pray then the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs beyond words and in accordance with the will of God. Sometimes things are just all too much for us, it is then that we can trust others to pray on our behalf and we can trust the Holy Spirit to intercede for us too.
Not feeling able to pray should not lead us to despair or feel guilty but rather to ask others and the Holy Spirit to pray for us.
Thirdly, at times, all of us need help to trust God to look after us, to lead us and to guide us.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome that eventually every event and circumstance that they experienced would be used for the good of the Kingdom of God, He said:
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew (God) also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom (God) predestined He also called; and those whom (God) called He also justified; and those whom (God) justified He also glorified.”
The “good” in this context does not refer to earthly comfort and ease of life but to conformity to Christ, becoming more like Jesus, having a closer relationship with God, bearing increasingly good fruit for the kingdom, and finally coming to be with God in glory. God has always, is, and always will do ‘good’ for His people. God is committed to all those who are in His family. The proof is shown by all that Jesus went through for us on the cross. God is committed to all who have accepted Him as their Saviour and that means that ultimately all will come to be with Him in glory.
Who Jesus is and what He has done for us is the ultimate basis for us being able to trust God here on earth.
Fourthly and finally God’s people can trust Him to establish His Kingdom on earth
God is never too slow in all that He does (He never misses bringing someone into His Kingdom), God is never too fast in His works (He never rushes on leaving people behind) God in this respect is like the perfect solution that we find in the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. What God does is ‘just right’. God sees things perfectly and does the correct things at just the right times.
The leaven takes time to leaven the whole batch of dough but it leavens all of it, none is left unchanged.
The mustard seed might initially look so insignificant because of its small beginnings but it grows to give even the birds of the air a safe place to be, to build their nests and to care for their young.
God can be trusted to look after all of us and all of our loved ones…
For, as Jesus Himself said we are to Him of more value than the birds…
So in this difficult season that we continue to face there is much to encourage us and give us hope:
God will give to us wisdom when we need it.
God will help us to pray, have others pray for us and the Holy Spirit will also intercede for us.
God remains committed to us; He always has been and always will be. The proof is the life and passion of Jesus.
And, God cares about every single person on earth; He is committed to all the people of every tribe and tongue. God wants all to know that He equally and uniquely loves everyone. His will is to welcome everyone into His Kingdom. The door is open to all. All anyone has to do is to see and recognise the infinite value of God’s love for them and, like the merchant who gave up everything of a lesser value for the pearl of great price, give up what does not satisfy eternally and receive God’s free gift of His love and eternal blessing.