Ever since I was a child, I’ve been taught that Solomon asked God for wisdom. I tried looking up the scripture where he asked God for “wisdom”, but the Bible doesn’t put it that way. In I Kings 3:9, Solomon asked God for an understanding heart so he could judge the people well. In essence he was asking for wisdom, but as I dug deeper, he wanted more than just wisdom. He wanted to do well in God’s sight and to care for His people.
When I looked up the word “understanding” as it was used in this context, it had three meanings. The first was to hear. Solomon wanted a heart that could hear not only God, but what others were saying too. He didn’t want to just rely on what his ears heard, he wanted to really hear what people meant. Wisdom comes in not just hearing what is spoken. It comes when we can discern the true intent of the words spoken.
The next meaning of “understanding” was to listen. Almost everyone is born with the ability to hear, but only a few ever learn to listen. I believe that God is always speaking to us. We hear Him, but we don’t really listen to what it is that He’s telling us or showing us. Solomon was concerned about the ability of his heart to listen to God. He wanted God to know that he understood the only way to truly govern the people well would be if He could listen to His voice.
The third meaning of “understanding” in this context is to obey. It’s not enough to hear or listen to God. We have to obey what He tells us. I’m sure that Solomon had been told of Saul’s disobedience and of God’s response in I Samuel 15:22. Obedience is better than sacrifice. God is more concerned with our obedience to His word than in our obedience to religious rituals. Anyone can walk through the motions of a ritual, but only the wisest among us obey a God at all costs.
Wisdom was a by product of what he truly wanted. Hearing the voice of a God, listening to what He really said and acting on it from his heart is what made Solomon truly wise. You and I can experience that wisdom. Solomon’s request for an understanding heart is one that you and I can ask for today. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” God would love it if each of us possessed the wisdom that comes from an understanding heart.