I am sure you are all familiar with the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp. Whenever anyone rubbed the lamp out popped a genie ready to grant 3 wishes to the lucky person. What would happen? Would they waste those wishes? What to wish for? Especially if you can’t wish for limitless wishes. Would anyone ever be selfless enough to wish to free the genie from a life of slavery?
One of my favourite TV shows is called Lucifer, where the devil is supposed to have come from hell in human form to visit earth. He decides he likes it so much he stays and opens a successful night club tempting people into a life of debauchery and merriment. However, he also manages to get a sideline working with a police detective solving crimes. His particular party trick is to look deep into a suspect’s soul and ask them the question “What is that you truly desire?” Sometimes enough to reveal if the person is guilty but often sets them off on a new direction. But it is a fascinating question. Not the three wishes of a genie, but a single deepest desire. I wonder what you would answer? Well rather than putting you on the spot here’s some answers that people have discussed on the internet.
Better internet access
For every cat in the world to have a home and be safe
Sleep, more sleep and food
To be best friends with somebody famous
To eat without gaining weight
To be rich and wealthy – that features fairly regularly
For my liver to never fail on me
Good health for myself, oh and my family too
Someone does point out that these are all rather selfish and suggests world peace or an end to world poverty. They then add the wish that on top of these they personally would never have to work. Which is rather ironic as it is the inequality between people and communities whether real or perceived that leads to situations of conflict.
However, judging by many of the answers given today, despite the easy access to news stations showing the desperate poverty and hardship that many suffer from, we still aren’t very good at getting our deepest desires to be selfless.
I wonder how many of us would answer instantaneously to that question My deepest desire is to do as the Lord requires, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.
It is interesting then that in our Old Testament reading today God appears to Solomon in a dream and tells him he will grant him his deepest desire. It could all have gone horribly wrong.
But the first thing to note is that the question from God doesn’t come out of the blue. Solomon has been worshipping the Lord, he has sacrificed 1000 cattle at the most important high place in Gibeon. There is no Temple at this point as Solomon hasn’t started to build it. He has only just become king. Solomon has already got his thoughts fixed in the direction. Focussed on God and God’s will, rather than his own selfish desires. And he gives an answer that is already rather wise. He starts by focussing on God and what God has already done for his family.
You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
And then he goes on to make his request and his reasons behind it
7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Solomon recognises his own weaknesses, he is only young, and is overwhelmed by the task set in front of him. He knows that despite his fortunate birth he is really only man and acknowledges his own inadequacies. So he asks God for a discerning or hearing heart, to distinguish between right and wrong so that he could govern God’s people. In short he asks for wisdom.
I wonder how often we stop and offer situations to God in prayer where we acknowledge our own inadequacies and ask for God’s wisdom to know what to do.
And the request makes God happy. In fact God says you could have asked for
“Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked.
Namely most of the things that people today stated as their deepest desires. But because Solomon asked for wisdom so he could rule God’s people with integrity God grants his deepest desire. And in his generosity he also promises to give Solomon the things he could have asked for but didn’t: wealth and honour. And also a long life, on the condition that Solomon continues to walk in his ways.
The first book of Kings then jumps straight into the first example that is given to us of Solomon putting his new found wisdom into action.
16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him.20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.
Over the next few weeks of ordinary time the lectionary will continue to study from the book of Proverbs that reflect some of King Solomon’s wise sayings. A king remembered for his selfless deepest desire that reflected God’s will. What is your deepest desire?