“Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" (1 Kings 3:7-9).
These words were spoken by king Solomon at the beginning of his reign as he feels overwhelmed at leading God’s people. His prayer is spoken out of a spirit of great humility as Solomon realizes what an awesome task lay before him in governing the children of Israel. God has appeared before Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask, what shall I give you?” (1 Kings 3:5). In his response Solomon asks for “an understanding heart” so that he may discern justice (1 Kings 3:9, 11).
Solomon’s reign begins wonderfully. God gives Solomon not only wisdom, but also riches and honor (1 Kings 3:12-13). “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29). God gave Solomon: (1) Wisdom, (2) great understanding, and (3) largeness of heart. In other words, God gave Solomon not only wisdom in the decisions he would make, but of equal importance, God gave Solomon “largeness of heart”, to have empathy for the people he was leading and to “understand” from their point of view how the decision he made would affect them.
Solomon displays this wisdom and “understanding heart” when 2 harlots come before him with a child which each woman says is her own. He calls for a sword and suggests he will divide the child between the two of them. The real mother of the child cries out for him not to do this, but to give the child to the other woman. Solomon clearly “understands” who the true mother is because with his heart he can see the compassion she has for her child. Solomon has the child given to her (1 Kings 3:16-27). Israel rejoices being blessed with a king who has the “wisdom of God” (1 Kings 3:28).
As I read these words I think about how important it is for leaders at any level (i.e. government leaders, church leaders, or leaders in a family) to have wisdom and “an understanding heart”. Being a leader at any of these levels is not just about making decisions and expecting the people to follow them. It is also about understanding the people you are leading, the ability to see things from their point of view, and being able to discern how to implement the decisions you have to make into a course of action that the people you are leading will be willing to follow. Too often leaders fail because they are unable or unwilling to discern how the people they are attempting to lead view things and then get frustrated because those they lead will not follow their decisions. May God give us more leaders like Solomon who have “an understanding heart”!
Today, I rejoice that God will give me wisdom if I seek it! My prayer is as Solomon’s: “Give your servant an understanding heart.” It is a great responsibility to be a leader whether at home, in the church, at work, or in the government. Leaders in any capacity need God’s help to give them an understanding heart and wisdom in the decisions they make. God is infinite in His wisdom. May He bless me with imparting to me just a small portion of His wisdom as I seek to be a leader in whatever capacity I find myself!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).